Gone are the days when it was considered lazy or tacky to give gift cards as presents. Now they are accepted, even encouraged. Why? Because they allow the recipient to get exactly what he or she wants. No more agonizing over whether or not something is “just right” or whether the person on your list already has it. A gift card to his or her favorite store is the perfect gift. But there is no longer any need to restrict your gift card to one store. Many banks now offer gift cards that work like credit cards. Indeed, they are remarkably similar to pre-paid credit cards. And they come with attractive (and sometimes even personalized) looks so that it really does look like you are giving a gift. But watch out! Bank gift cards also sometimes come with high fees.
Gift card fees
Back in the day, some merchants charged fees if a gift card wasn’t used by a certain date, or if it remained inactive. Some still charge fees if the recipient uses the gift card online instead of in the store. However, most merchant gift cards are devoid of fees now, thanks to public outcry. But in the new world of bank gift cards (that can be used anywhere like a credit card), fees still apply. And sometimes they are quite high. Not using the card for six months can result in automatic deactivation, and then a fee to reactivate the gift card can whittle away funds. Other bank gift cards charge as much as $7.95 when used online. So your brilliant gift idea may turn into headache for the recipient. Not the way to spread holiday cheer.
Shopping around for good gift cards
Carefully check the terms and conditions to find out what kinds of penalties are attached to bank gift cards that you are considering. Find out when they expire (sometimes after six months), whether there is a deactivation, and what kind of fees are charged for online shopping. And remember, many online merchants like Amazon offer online gift certificates, and you can go to Web sites like Super Certificates and purchase a certificate that lets the recipient choose from stores of his or her choice.