Consumer Alert: Protection against gift card bankruptcy

Posted: Updated:

Gift cards are a popular gift, with Americans spending about $130 billion a year.

But consumer advocates warn that it is possible for the card to lose its value if the store declares bankruptcy or closes suddenly.

“Use your gift card right away,” says advocate Shelly Hunter. “If you hear news that there’s a store that’s in trouble, go use that gift card.”

Not all store bankruptcies are the same. Toys R Us recently declared bankruptcy but is still accepting gift cards. But retailers like The Limited stopped honoring gift cards as soon as it entered bankruptcy.

Hunter says that consumers should keep track of stores that are in financial trouble, as well as any deadlines there may be to use the card. But she says that the deadline could change based on what happens in bankruptcy.

Hunter also says to call the state Department of Consumer Affairs and ask what they are doing to help gift card holders.

Customers may also file a claim against the company, but Hunter warns that these lawsuits are rarely successful.

“If you file a claim, you’re behind all the secured creditors who are sometimes owned thousands or millions of dollars,” she says. “There’s no guarantee you’ll get your money.”

More information about what to do if a company goes bankrupt can be found at the website

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