LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Christmas season is approaching and according to a recent survey, gift cards are the thing that everyone wants in their stocking this year.
Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on gift cards, and we buy nearly a third of them during the holiday season.
While they make your shopping quick and easy, there are some potential hidden dangers with buying these little gifts. Here are a few tips to keep in mind from the Better Business Bureau.
Know who you're buying from
Your best bet is to buy gift cards straight from the source instead of going through a third-party site. Gift cards purchased from an auction site like eBay could be expired or empty when they arrive. Smaller websites that advertise gift cards for major retailers at a discount could be trying to steal your personal information that you enter at check-out.
Look closely at physical cards
Buying your card in-person doesn't mean you're free from getting scammed. When you pick out your card, look closely at the packaging and make sure it isn't damaged, wrinkled or torn. Double-check to see if the PIN number is exposed. If you believe the card is damaged, choose a different one and take the damaged one to Customer Service. If you're worried about a physical card's security, many stores like Amazon offer digital cards.
Read the fine print
Not all cards are created equal, so be sure to read the fine print on the back of your gift card. Sometimes, that $50 gift card could be worth about half of that if you start tacking on transaction fees or inactivity fees. If you still have questions, the Federal Trade Commission has information about retail gift cards and bank gift cards. You can also check each retailer's website for more info.
Finally, make sure the gift card you buy will be something your friend or family member will use. Of the $130 billion Americans spent on gift cards in 2015, about $1 billion of that was never used.