DiNapoli Cautions New Yorkers to Read Fine Print When Purchasing Holiday Gift Cards

By WBNG News

DiNapoli Cautions New Yorkers to Read Fine Print When Purchasing Holiday Gift Cards

November 20, 2012 Updated Nov 20, 2012 at 2:18 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli urged New Yorkers to pay special attention to fees and expiration dates when purchasing gift cards as holiday gifts.

According to a news release:

“If you plan on giving gift cards this holiday season, my advice is pay attention," DiNapoli said. "Some gift cards have upfront fees or rules and restrictions that may diminish their value over time.

“If you find an old gift card, it may still have value, so try to spend it or see if the funds were turned over to my office as unclaimed funds. Be smart this holiday season and maximize your money.”

DiNapoli advised recipients to avoid inactivity charges by using the cards within a year of purchase. A significant number of gift card sellers have done away with inactivity fees, but consumers should ask when purchasing a card whether such fees apply.

Under the Federal Credit Card Act of 2009, many types of retail cards sold after August 22, 2010, are not permitted to charge inactivity fees unless the card has been inactive for at least 12 months. All terms and conditions for a card must be disclosed directly on the card, and gift cards may not expire within the first five years after purchase.

Since January 1, 2011, New York State has required companies offering rebates to disclose whether those rebates will be issued in the form of a gift card, and whether any fees will apply to those cards. Rebate cards are not all covered by the same rules as regular gift cards, so this disclosure helps consumers to identify the different cards and how they can be used.

Gift cards still might come with terms and conditions that can decrease the value of the gift card. These include charging:

•    a service fee when the card is purchased;
•    a dormancy fee if the gift card is not used within a certain period of time;
•    a fee to call and check the balance remaining on the card; and
•    a replacement fee for lost or stolen gift cards.

DiNapoli also reminded consumers that if an item costs more than the value of a card, consumers may not be able to split payment between the card and another method of payment.