If the thought of braving holiday crowds at the mall is driving you to go for gift cards, you’re not alone. Spending on gift cards is expected to hit a record high this year.
The funds on gift cards won’t expire within five years as they used to thanks to new regulations, but Consumer Reports says gift cards still don’t make a great gift.
One reason: fees. In the case of bankcards, fees can significantly chip away at their value. Bank-issued cards with the Visa, MasterCard or American Express logo commonly have purchase fees that can run up to $5. Then there are dormancy fees that kick in after a year or so like TD Bank’s $2.50 a month. Ten months of that and a $25 card is worthless. Lost or stolen? The replacement fee for a bankcard can be around $15.
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Cards issued by merchants typically don’t have fees like bankcards. But these cards are not convenient, since you can use them only at the business on the card. And if you lose a store card or it’s stolen, you’re probably out of luck as merchants aren’t required to replace them and Consumer Reports found some who don’t.
Consumer Reports says another big drawback to gift cards is that you have no legal right to dispute charges made on them as you do with credit or debit cards.
If you get a gift card this holiday season Consumer Reports says use it quickly. Even better give cash or checks.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.