Things to consider when purchasing and using gift cards: Part 2

What you should and shouldn’t do with gift cards.

Many gift cards will be purchased for holiday gift giving. As highlighted in “Things to consider when purchasing and using gift cards Part 1,” it is important to know what type of gift card you are purchasing (i.e. retail gift card versus a bank gift card). In addition, important tips for actual gift card shopping were provided (i.e. knowing the retail source, reading the fine print, understanding fees, etc.). In this final article, suggestions on using gift cards and methods to report problems or complaints will be covered.

It seems fairly straightforward that gift cards are meant to be spent or redeemed. However, it is not always that easy. Gift card recipients should consider the following:

  • Read any information provided with the card. There may be expiration dates or fees that apply when using the card.
  • If fees are deducted from a gift card or if the card has expired, try communicating with the company that issued the card. There’s always the possibility that the card will be reinstated or the fees will be reversed.
  • If not provided with the actual gift card, consider seeking the terms and conditions of the gift card and the original receipt or the card’s ID number. If you are able to receive any of this information keep it in a safe place in case you ever need it.
  • It is recommended that gift cards are spent as soon as possible. People often lose or misplace gift cards, so using them right away gives a person a better chance of receiving the full value of the card.
  • In the unfortunate event that a card is lost or stolen, contact the card issuer right away. Each issuer has their own policy for this situation. Some will not issue a new card if it is lost or stolen, and some may for a fee. Others may not refund any of the remaining balance. Keep in mind if the company is willing to work with this situation, they may require proof of purchase and the gift card ID number.

Should you encounter a problem with a gift card, try contacting the company that issued the card. If this doesn’t bring a resolution then consider the following options:

  • For retail gift card issues contact the Federal Trade Commission (877-FTC-HELP) or your state Attorney General.
  • For national bank gift cards contact the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group at 800-613-6743.

For more information on this topic, visit For additional financial resources, visit MI Money Health of Michigan State University Extension.

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