Consumer Tips: Buy Gift Cards Carefully and Use Them Early

Many of us will buy and receive gift cards this festive season and the Queensland Consumers Association advises buyers to check that the terms and conditions are fair and not likely to be unduly restrictive for the receiver, and recipients to consider using them soon after receipt.

Association spokesperson, Ian Jarratt, says many people think that gift cards are equivalent to cash, but they are not.

Gift cards often come with complex terms and conditions, including expiry dates.

People thinking of buying gift cards as presents should check before hand to make sure that the terms and conditions are fair and will not be unduly restrictive for the recipient.

They should also consider whether cash may be a much better gift because it does not expire or come with complex and potentially tricky terms and conditions.

Using gift cards soon after receipt can be very beneficial for many consumers because:

· It reduces the chances that the card will not be used due to being forgotten, lost, stolen, or past the expiry date.

· If a business goes into administration, liquidation or receivership gift cards are unlikely to be useable as planned and the holder may become an unsecured creditor. Using cards sooner rather than later reduces this risk.

· There may be time limits on getting a refund on a gift card using the charge-back facility that may be possible if it was bought with some credit and debit cards and problems arise such as the issuer going into administration, liquidation or receivership, or non receipt, or non provision, of agreed goods or services.

The Association also says consumers with gift cards should:

· Keep them in safe, known place

· Keep a record of the details or take a photo of, or copy/scan, cards

· Be aware of any fees or charges, and conditions of use, for example administration fees, minimum purchase amounts, restrictions on what can be bought, and no cash back for even small amounts of residual credit.

Many gift cards are never used, or only used partially, so they become a gift for the issuer not the receiver. However, subject to conditions, some issuers will replace lost or stolen cards and have grace periods beyond stated expiry dates.