DAYTON — Are you looking for last-minute gift ideas for friends and family? Maybe you ultimately decide the best and quickest way to secure a gift is to buy a gift card. While this is a practical and easy way to give a gift, you may want to be careful before you buy or use a gift card this holiday season.
When buying or receiving a gift card this year, make sure it’s secure. While gift cards, and prepaid cards in general, are the fastest-growing non-cash payment type in the U.S., doesn’t mean they are always safe to use.
Better Business Bureau offers these tips regarding gift cards:
• Ensure the gift card has all the appropriate stickers and numbers associated with it. Report the card to the store if anything is scratched off or seems damaged.
• Buy from trusted sources. Don’t buy gift cards from people online or auctions as they are more than likely a scam and have already been used.
• Save receipts when you purchase the gift card. This will allow you to dispute any issues with the card.
• Treat gift cards like cash. Report a lost or stolen gift card to the card’s issuer immediately. Most card issuers have toll-free numbers you can find online to report a lost or stolen card. Depending on the card issuer, you may even be able to get some money back.
• Read the terms & conditions. Know the deal you’re getting with gift cards. For example, are there fees every time it gets used or if it sits unused?
• Keep in mind some gift cards have an expiration date. Check to make sure there isn’t one, especially if you’re giving the card to someone so he/she knows when to use it by. If your card expires and you still have money left, call the issuer and ask if you can get a replacement. Make sure to use your gift card earlier rather than later so you don’t forget about it or misplace it.
• Be aware gift cards for certain stores or brands can only be used for those brands, not for other goods or services.
• Buy gift cards at stores you trust. Grab your gift card from the back of the rack because scammers often target the ones in the front. Also, grab ones near cashiers or customer service as scammers often target unattended gift card displays.
• Consider the retailer’s financial condition when buying gift cards. If you purchase a gift card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated.
• Watch cashiers as they check you out. Make sure they hand the gift cards back to you as soon as the card is activated.
• Register your card with the retailer if it’s an option.
For more tips for staying safe holiday shopping, visit bbb.org/all/holiday. You can also contact the BBB this holiday season for lists of BBB Accredited Businesses in a variety of industries and Business Profiles on ones you may be considering. Visit BBB.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.
The writer is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and the Miami Valley.