Consumer Alert: What to know about gift cards

With Christmas just one week away, many last-second shoppers will probably be running out to buy gift cards for their friends and loved ones.

Gift cards can be a great last minute gift this holiday season.

Gift cards can be a great last minute gift this holiday season. (12/18/15)

EDISON - With Christmas just one week away, many last-second shoppers will probably be running out to buy gift cards for their friends and loved ones.

Experts say nearly one-half of Americans intend to give at least one gift card as a gift this year. In the past, gift cards had an expiration date. However, according to Consumer Report expert Tod Marks, this is no longer the case.

Marks says that most gift cards do not expire and do not incur monthly fees.

“It’s kind of gauche to give cash,” he says. ”Gift cards kind of bridge the gap between taste and tasteless.”

However, Marks warns there are several things to look out for before purchasing: Make sure the code on the back of the card hasn’t been scrapped off. Make sure the store isn’t in danger of closing down before the recipient gets a chance to use the card. Make sure the recipient actually likes the store the gift card is linked to.

“Somebody once told me they got a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. But the person who gave it to them didn’t realized they’d gone vegan,” Marks says.

Gift cards hold no monetary value themselves, so they cannot be returned. There are websites that will purchase gift cards for 65 to 92 percent of their value.

Experts offer one last tip: make sure to keep track of the gift card. The Tower Group research firm estimates that $41 billion worth of gift cards have gone unused in the past 10 years.

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