"Because we care about the people in the hometowns we serve," said Alan Boggs, Riverside Bank President in Brevard County, "we are providing the following tips for consumers to make better choices when purchasing gift cards this holiday season."
. Only buy gift cards from reputable sources. Stay away from online auction sites, which may have counterfeit or fraudulently-obtained cards.
. Some gift cards don't have fees, but others do. Check the packaging for information on fees or look for a toll-free number or web site with full information. Some fees may be paid in cash, but others deduct fees from the card.
. Check for an expiration date. Some gift cards expire. If your card does, you may not be able to use it after the expiration date. Find out whether the card can be reissued with a new expiration date, and what the fee would be for issuing a new card.
. Don't buy it if anything looks suspicious - like if protective stickers have been removed or the codes on the back of the card have been scratched off to reveal a PIN number.
. Have the store cashier scan the gift card you're buying in front of you. This reflects the balance that you paid for it and protects against crooks who substitute worthless cards for the cards you think you are buying.
. Keep your original receipt if you need to verify the value of the card. Having the toll-free number that appears on the back of the card can be handy if your gift card is lost or doesn't work.
. Never give your Social Security number, date of birth or any other private information to anyone when you purchase a gift card. No reputable company will ever ask for this information.
. A store gift card can often be used only at the store where it was purchased (or related stores). Some are used for purchases in selected malls. Other gift cards, like those with a connection to MasterCard or VISA, can typically be used wherever their credit cards are accepted. Some gift cards allow you to get cash at an ATM.
The information above comes from the American Bankers Association Education Foundation.
This article was submitted by Alan Boggs, Riverside Bank President in Brevard County.