I love gift cards! I love to give them and receive them. I am known to horde my gift cards so that when the time is right I can buy the exact item I want. I also love to give gift cards as gifts. I enjoy searching out just the right store or restaurant that would make the recipient happy, and then purchasing the card. Gift cards have also made it easier to ship gifts to relatives who live far away. To send a gift card to my niece up north all I have to do is pop it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it. Gift cards require no special boxes or trips to the post office or UPS Store.
So far I have raved about the positives of gift cards from both the giver’s and receiver’s points of view. Unfortunately, there are 2 major points to be made on the rant side of this subject. First, beware of the terms of the gift card. This holds especially true for Mall gift cards and the Visa gift cards. (To date I have not had or heard from anyone who has had trouble with the American Express or Mastercard gift Cards). This is how I learned the hard way.
My husband and I each received $50 Visa gift cards from a family member last Christmas. The terms on the back stated that charges would begin to be deducted 12 months after activation. I used $40 of mine in January and then carried the card around for months. In August I took my husband out for dessert and planned on paying with my Visa gift card. When we went to pay the bill my gift card was rejected. Luckily, between the two of us we had enough cash to cover the bill. When we got home I checked the card out online and Visa had been deducting $1.50 a month since April! He called and the customer service rep. told him that they changed their policy in March. He fought with the lady and she added back all of the charges that had been put on our cards and told us we had to use them by the 24th of the month or we would be charged again. We thought Visa gift cards would be safe to hold on to but they aren’t. They have the right to change their terms anytime they want. Malls are also known to depreciate the value of their gift cards if they are not used by a specific date.
The Christmas shopping season is now upon us. If you are planning on purchasing gift certificates to give or if you receive any as presents use them soon after Christmas to avoid a major headache. The following stores have informed the Securities exchange that they plan on closing some or all of their retail locations between October 2008 and January 2009. If you are stuck with an unredeemed gift card after the store closes you are out of luck.
Companies closing all of their stores:
- J. Jill
- Wickes Furniture
- Levitz Furniture
- Piercing Pagoda
- Linens and Things
- Movie Gallery
- Pacific Sunwear
- Wilson Leather
- Sharper Image
Companies closing a large number of their retail stores:
- Circuit City (number of stores closing unknown)
- JC Penney (number of stores closing unknown)
- Dillards (number of stores closing unknown)
- Ann Taylor-117 stores closing nationwide
- Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherine’s-150 stores closing nationwide
- Eddie Bauer-at least 27 stores closing nationwide
- GAP-85 stores closing nationwide
- Footlocker-at least 140 stores closing nationwide
- Zales-at least 82 stores closing nationwide
- Disney Store-at least 98 stores closing nationwide
- Home Depot- 15 stores closing nationwide
- Macys-9 stores to close nationwide
- Pep Boys- 33 stores closing nationwide
- Sprint/Nextel- 133 stores closing nationwide
- Ethan Allen- 12 stores closing nationwide
- K B Toys-356 stores closing nationwide
A few closing thoughts on gift cards this holiday season.
- Give a gift card to a store the recipient actually likes to shop at. Many gift cards go unused because the recipient says they couldn’t find anything to buy.
- Consider giving cash instead-it is alw
- Do your homework on the terms of the gift card. If you choose to give a card with strict terms, inform the recipient of those terms.
- If you receive a gift card as a gift, use it. According to Best Buy, in 2006 they had $43 million in unused gift cards on their books from the past two years.
Have a blessed Christmas.