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For Immediate Release
December 7, 2004
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CONSUMER ALERT: GIFT CARDS ARE POPULAR GIFTS, BUT WATCH OUT FOR EXPIRATION DATES AND FEES

Noting a survey that said that two-thirds of consumers plan to purchase gift cards this holiday season, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. advised consumers to find out whether a card imposes fees or conditions or has an expiration date before purchasing.

Gift cards are increasingly popular for their convenience to both the gift-giver and the receiver. However, some recipients of gift cards have been unhappy to discover that the card had expired when they went to use it or that it was worth less than its original value because fees had been deducted after a certain period of time. For example, some cards deduct $2 per month from an unused balance after 12 months. Other recipients were dismayed that if the item they selected to purchase with the card cost less than the amount on the card, the remainder would not be refunded as cash.

“ To avoid unpleasant surprises with gift cards, shop around,” Curran said. “Many retailers’ gift cards never expire and never impose service fees that will reduce the face value of the card.”

Terms and conditions of gift cards are often listed on the reverse side of the card or its packaging, or consumers can ask the retailer or check the retailer’s website for the information.

Curran also said consumers should be aware of differences between retailer gift cards and bank-issued gift cards, which usually bear a credit card logo and can be used in most places that credit cards can be used. The bank-issued cards often have upfront purchase fees, account maintenance fees, fees for checking a balance, and fees to issue a replacement card.

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