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New Law Protects Consumers From Gift Card 'Holiday Rip-Off'

In 2011, American consumers spent more than $100 billion on gift cards.

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This year, like many years past, the most popular holiday gift in the nation will likely be a 3-inch by 2-inch piece of plastic—and you don't have to sleep in the parking lot to get one.

According to the TowerGroup research firm, gift cards will once again top the list of holiday gifts in 2012. In 2011, for example, American consumers spent more than $100 billion on gift cards. 

But consumers who purchase gift cards with hidden fees or expiration dates could again fall victim to this year's biggest holiday rip-off. Expiration dates and fees erode the value of the cards, sometimes leaving the recipient with nothing.

Minnesota's new gift card law now offers some important consumer protections for those who buy and receive gift cards. The law prohibits expiration dates and hidden fees on gift cards sold in our state. But the law only goes so far—and certain gift cards aren't covered under Minnesota law.

According to the bill's chief author, State Rep. Joe Atkins encourages holiday shoppers to: 

  • Avoid cards issued by credit card companies and banks, which are subject to federal law and still can have fees and expiration dates.
  • Look closely at the card’s fine print. Even though it may look like it comes directly from the retailer, the small print may reveal it is a bank card with fees and an expiration date.
  • Avoid cards where you can see the number on the card before purchasing it - these cards are popular with cyber-thieves who use the number to make online purchases without having to buy the card.
Diane Baum December 23, 2012 at 05:43 PM
this last line: Avoid cards where you can see the number on the card before purchasing it - these cards are popular with cyber-thieves who use the number to make online purchases without having to buy the card. Usually if it is an online sale, the company will flag that card and let you know it was declined only (before you can complete the purchase) because it needs to be activated by the store selling it first. Unless things have become so technical that this no longer applies..... good points all around, however. Thanks!

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