The Gift Of A Gift Card

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Gift cards are always a favorite whether you are giving or receiving — for a birthday, holiday gift, or just because. We will all cross paths with a gift card or gift certificate at one time or another and they can be great, especially if you have some helpful tips in your back pocket to go along with that wonderful gift card.

If you’re buying a gift card or gift certificate:

  • Ask about the seller’s redemption policy.
  • In the case of a gift card usable with multiple, unaffiliated sellers (such as a mall card or a prepaid debit or credit card), ask about expiration dates and any applicable fees. In addition, ask about the locations where the unspent portion of the value can be redeemed, and how that amount can be redeemed. In California, gift cards from single stores (not multiple seller cards) cannot have an expiration date.
  • In the case of a gift card, ask the seller if the recipient can add value or reload the card.
  • Ask the seller about its policies on returning merchandise.

A recipient who redeems a gift certificate or gift card for merchandise will be subject to those policies.

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If you receive a gift card or gift certificate:

  • Ask about the seller’s redemption policy. Some merchants may redeem the gift certificate for cash or a combination of merchandise and cash, while some may issue a new certificate for any balance remaining after the original certificate is redeemed.
  • In the case of a gift card, ask the seller if value can be added to the card or if it can be reloaded. Also ask about any service or dormancy fee.
  • Use any remaining value on a gift certificate or gift card. If a gift certificate or gift card has a low balance, make a purchase with it and pay the difference out-of-pocket.
  • Ask the seller about its policies on returning merchandise.

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For more information about gift certificates and gift cards, check out FAQs and Tips on Gift Certificates and Gift Cards:

Legal Guide S-11 from the Department of Consumer Affairs online at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/s-11.shtml.

For a side by side comparison California law VS. federal law on gift certificates, store gift cards, multiple seller gift card (also known as a “General-use prepaid cards), and reward programs, check out the S-11 charts:

Legal Guide S-11 Charts from the Department of Consumer Affairs online at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/s11_chart.pdf

Now that you have all the 4-1-1 on gift cards and gift certificates, happy shopping!

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