Check with BBB before shopping for gift cards this holiday season

By John North, President/CEO - Better Business Bureau

Gift cards make a great gift for just about anyone. It helps ease the burden of shopping online and/or in the store for many. Plus, you know the recipient will get something they like at the right size and no duplicates. People spend more than $130 billion on gift cards every year and about $1 billion of those cards go unspent. Better Business Bureau offers tips on what to look for when shopping for a gift card.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers will plan on buying an average four gift cards this year, worth about $45 each. When shopping for gift cards, BBB offers these tips:

• Read the fine print before purchasing to determine if there are fees or expiration dates.

• Look at the retailer’s financial situation. If the company looks to be on shaky ground, consider a gift card from another retailer.

• Purchase gift cards with credit cards. Your credit card company may offer protection if the company goes out business.

• Encourage recipients to use gift cards right away in case of store closings.

• Make sure gift cards haven’t been tampered with, removed and placed back in their holders or the backs haven’t been scratched off.

• Have employees scan gift cards to make sure they’re valid and have the proper value once purchased.

• Keep the original receipt with the card as proof of purchase.

• Advice recipients to register gift cards through the stores’ Web sites, if available, which allows them to check balances and get new cards if lost.

• Buy from trustworthy sources. Gift cards offered on online exchanges or auction sites are sometimes counterfeit or stolen.

• Keep your information private. Reputable organizations won’t ask for your personal information when purchasing a gift card.

• Be wary buying gift cards from multi-vendor racks at retail stores, instead purchase them from behind the register or counter at the store.

If you have problems with a gift card, you can call the retailer or call the Federal Trade Commission at or call toll-free 877-382-4357. You can also contact your BBB for a list of BBB Accredited Businesses in specific industries and Business Profiles on retailers and/or restaurants you’re planning to do business with. For more advice, visit or calling 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.

By John North, President/CEO

Better Business Bureau