By Chad Arnold, Albany Bureau
ALBANY - If you're buying gift cards this year, read the fine print.
That's the message from New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who Monday issued a series of steps to follow when buying gift cards this holiday season.
Watch for fees
Gift cards may come with pricey inactivity fees.
"I encourage New Yorkers to read the terms when purchasing or receiving gift cards so they understand all of the fees, which may reduce the value of the card if it isn’t used," DiNapoli said in a statement.
Inactivity fees are typically charged when a gift card goes unused for a 12-month period, according to the state.
The fee has become less common in recent years.
In 2009, the federal government passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, prohibiting most gift card companies from charging for inactivity beginning August 2010.
Some fees still remain, though, which is why the state is encouraging consumers to read the terms and conditions associated with each card before purchasing.
What else to know
A few things other things to be on the look out for when purchasing gift cards this holiday season.
There can be service fees when purchasing the card.
Or there can be dormancy, or inactivity fees; replacement fees for lost or stolen cards; and fees to check a card's remaining balance.
What happens if the cards aren't used
While a popular holiday present, millions of dollars in gift cards purchased from New York businesses goes unspent each year, money which gets added to the state's Abandon Property Fund.
Last fiscal year, the state added $11.6 million in unspent gift cards to the $15.5 billion unclaimed money fund.
To check to see if you're owed money, visit here: http://lohud.nydatabases.com/database/unclaimed-funds