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Before you give a gift card, here’s what to do

Shopping for some this holiday season can be a daunting task. Many shoppers purchase gift cards to ensure the recipient gets what they want at their favorite retailer or restaurant. Your Better Business Bureau offers tips on what to look for when shopping for a gift card.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), about 60 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a gift card this year. Gift cards remain one of the most popular gifts for the seventh year in a row.

In recent years, federal laws have changed, giving both the buyer and recipient additional protection. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act prohibits retailers and restaurants from setting expirations dates less than five years after the card purchase date. Expiration dates and fees must be disclosed clearly on the card. However, inactivity fees can only be charged after one-year of non-usage and once per month. The card issuer can also charge a fee to buy the card or to replace a lost or stolen card.

When shopping for gift cards, consider these tips:

• Inspect the card. Make sure gift cards haven’t been tampered with, removed and placed back in their holders or the backs haven’t been scratched off.

• Ask employee to scan gift cards to make sure they’re valid and have the proper value once purchased.

• Make sure you receive original receipt. Give the recipient the gift card and receipt as proof of purchase.

• Tell recipients to use gift cards right away in case of store closings.

• Be sure to register gift cards through the stores’ Web sites, if available, which allows them to check balances and get new cards if lost.

Remember, always read the fine print before making a gift card purchase. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites or classified ads because they could be stolen. If a retailer discovers the card to be fraudulent, they may deactivate the card and refuse to honor it. It’s best to purchase gift cards directly from stores you can trust. If you have problems with a gift card, you can call the retailer or call the Federal Trade Commission at or call toll-free (877) 382-4357.

You can also contact your BBB for a list of BBB Accredited Businesses and reviews on retailers or restaurants you’re considering. Visit or calling (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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