Don’t Let Gift Card Traps Hurt Your Holiday Cheer

It’s probably a safe bet you’ll give and receive gift cards this holiday season.

After all, they make for convenient, one-size-fits-all shopping. You pay the money now, and someone else uses it later. And we all enjoy picking out the exact item we want, in the right color and size.

But despite the attraction, gift cards can present problems, especially if you don’t read the fine print.

Gift cards fall into two basic types: retail gift cards tied to a specific company’s stores and bank-issued cards usable at most places where credit cards are accepted. If not selected carefully, either kind of card can cause post-holiday headaches.

Among the potential snags:

  • The issuer may go out of business before you redeem the card, meaning the money is lost.
  • Criminals circulate counterfeit cards.
  • You may incur fees for allowing a balance to remain inactive.
  • Unused money on a card may expire.
  • A card may not be properly activated.

Take these precautions to help ensure the money on gift cards remains yours to spend:

  • Purchase from reputable sources, such as the retailer or restaurant itself, or from a retailer who regularly handles gift cards. Buy gift cards from some of the hundreds of merchants available through USAA MemberShop¹ to earn more rewards. Be leery of those sold on auction sites or places where you can’t verify the seller’s reputation.
  • Keep the receipt with the card in case there is an activation problem.
  • Don’t buy the card if its expiration date isn’t clearly noted. Make sure all fees are explained on the card or its packaging.
  • Read the fine print to make sure the money on a card won’t expire for a minimum of five years from the purchase date.
  • Make sure inactivity fees aren’t applied unless the card has been inactive for more than a year.
Shop for gift cards with USAA MemberShop¹ and maximize your card’s rewards.

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¹Depending on the merchant, members receive between 1% and 20% of the retail purchase price in rewards on their purchases.

Use of the term “member” or “membership” refers to membership in USAA Membership Services and does not convey any legal or ownership rights in USAA. Restrictions apply and are subject to change.

Alliance services provided through USAA Alliance Services, L.L.C.