The holiday shopping season is upon us and millions of shoppers will head to the stores this holiday weekend. Beginning with Black Friday and ending with Cyber Monday, gift cards will be a popular option for those looking for a great gift. According the the TowerGroup, a total of $91 billion will be spend on gift cards in 2010. While consumers have reason to be thankful for new federal gift card legislation, ScripSmart.com advises not all gift cards are created equal and buyers must still be on the lookout for gift card terms and features before making a purchase. ScripSmart Founder Judd Lillestrand says, "There are several gift cards in the marketplace which far exceed federal and state minimums for fees and expiration. Furthermore, there are many attributes to a gift card which are not governed by law; these features can make the difference between giving a great gift card and not."
10 Questions To Ask Before Buying A Gift Card
1. Is the gift card issued by a financially sound company?
When buying a gift card, you are essentially providing an unsecured loan to the company which does not pay interest. While it may make a great gift, it's not a great investment. Worse yet, if a company goes out of business, your gift card recipient will be out of luck and stuck with a worthless gift card.
2. Is the gift card replaceable?
People lose gift cards, wallets or handbags. There are several gift cards in the marketplace which offer free replacements. Remember to always give the receipt with the gift card; it will likely be required to prove ownership of the lost gift card.
3. Where is the card not accepted?
Some gift cards are not redeemable in all locations. For example, the Jamba Juice Gift Card is not redeemable at certain airport locations. Others may only be redeemable online or within the US. On the other hand, a gift card might be redeemable at more places than expected. For example, the Sears Gift Card is also redeemable at any Sears, Kmart, The Great Indoors, or Land's End locations.
5. Does the gift card have a scratch off security feature?
Scratch off security features often hide the gift card number or a pin required for redemption. They dramatically reduce the chances you're card has been tampered with and help prevent the card form being fraudulently used. That's an important aspect because the gift card holder often takes the loss for a fraudulently used gift card.
6. What are the options for obtaining the balance?
Knowing the current balance of a gift card is important. Some companies make it much easier than others. Typically there are three options: phone, online, and in-store. If the gift card has just one option for checking the balance it could become a pain for your gift card recipient.
7. Can the recipient get cash back for the remaining balance of the gift card?
While it may not be common, there are companies which offer a cash back policy if the gift card balance is below a certain threshold. For example, the Gap Gift Card is redeemable for cash after the balance is $10 or less and not just when required by law in a state such as California. This is great, because your gift card recipient will not have to go out of pocket to receive the full value of your gift.
8. Is the gift card refundable?
While rare, there are gift cards which are refundable for cash or check. One example is the Container Store Gift Card. It's refundable for cash at anytime, the gift card holder will need the gift card and purchase receipt to ensure they are the rightful owner. Again, always give the receipt along with the gift card.
9. Are there any fees or expiration?
While fee and expiration dates have fallen by the wayside for most national merchants, fees and expiration dates are still out there: both bank-issed and regional merchants may still impose such fees. No one likes to find out their gift card has been reduced in value. So stay away from these gift cards altogether.
10. What is the Gift Card Score?
Gift Card Score is a ranking system for the consumer friendliness of a gift card program. Developed by ScripSmart.com, it aid consumers in gauging the terms and policies of a gift card program. Scores range from 0-100 and the a helpful summary of many of the points above are included in each gift card review. To see the Gift Card Score of of 500 gift cards, visit ScripSmart.com.