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Gift Cards

Gift cards have become an easy way to shop and the great thing is that you can buy them any time during the year. They are good for birthdays, Christmas, Valentines Day, bridal showers, baby showers, house warmings, and for any other reason or season.

Many grocery stores, department stores, drug stores, mini marts and other retail outlets have made gift cards an attractive alternative for people who don't have the time, nor the desire, to go shopping at malls or other stores.

There is a gift card for just about anything you may want to buy a friend, relative, co-worker, client, customer, or for yourself. Many parents, and grandparents, have started giving gift cards instead of actual presents.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, close to 18-billion dollars worth of gift cards are purchased each year and that dollar amount is growing.

The Federal Reserve implimented key changes with important protections for gift cards sold on or after August 22, 2010.

The new protections cover:

(1) Limits on expiration dates: The money on your gift card will be good for at least five years from the date the card is purchased. Any money that might be added to the card at a later date must also be good for at least five years.

(2) Replacement cards: If a gift card has an expiration date, unspent money may still be used after the card has expired. For example, the card may expire in five years but the money may not expire for seven. If your card expires and there is unspent money, you can request a replacement card at no charge. Check your card to see if expiration dates apply.

(3) Disclosure of fees: All fees must be clearly disclosed on the gift card or its packaging.

(4) Limits on fees: Gift card fees typically are subtracted from the money on the card. Under the new rules, many gift card fees will be limited. The restrictions will be on inactivity and usage fees and fees for adding money to cards.

(5) Store gift cards: The new rules apply to store gift card which can be used only at a particular store or group of stores that come with with activation fees can have no more than a one time activation fee of $1.50 and must retain their value for a minimum of 15 months after the end of the month that the consumer entered into the agreement.

(6) Gift cards with a Visa, Discover, MasterCard, or American Express logo on them: These cards generally can be used wherever the brand is accepted but not all cards with a brand logo are covered such as reloadable prepaid cards that are not intended for gift-giving purposes and cards that are given as a reward or as part of a promotion.

(7) Gift cards that are subject to federal jurisdiction such as pre-paid phone cards are not affected by the new rules.

Gift cards are fun and they makes shopping convenient for the giver and they give the recipient the chance to buy things that they really want or need instead of getting something that they don't really want or need.

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