CONSUMER ALERT: Tips for buying and giving gift cards

Staff Report

     BATON ROUGE— Finding the perfect holiday gift can be time-consuming. So, it’s not surprising that many consumers turn to gift cards for convenience. You can buy the plastic cards everywhere from specialty stores to drugstores to online retailers, but remember there are pros and cons to gift cards.

     Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell has tips for consumers who buy and use gift cards:

Buy from known and trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.

Read the fine print before buying. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online?

Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen.

Before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant.

A card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worth less than anticipated.

If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.

Tips for using gift cards:

Note any terms and conditions, and check for an expiration date or fees.

Ask anyone who gives you a card for its terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt, or the card’s ID number. Keep this information in a safe place.

Use gift cards as soon as possible, because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.

Treat a card like cash, and if it is lost or stolen, report this immediately to the issuer.

For more holiday tips, visit or contact the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889.