7On your side: Giving and receiving gift cards - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

7 On Your Side: Giving and receiving gift cards

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If you like to give and receive gift cards, you're not alone. It's a way to make sure the recipient gets something they will truly enjoy. But doing a little research ahead can prevent disappointment.

If you give Stephanie Gill cash for Christmas, there's a good chance she'll use it for something other than herself.

"Cash, I would probably spend on someone else or spend on the kids or buy gift cards for the kids or, I just don't think I'd spend it on myself," said Gill.

While at first, gift cards seemed impersonal, she admits she now enjoys getting gift cards and giving them, too.

"Gift cards are better because they're not sure what to get or what I would like so I'd rather them spend their money on a gift card so I know I would like it, rather than spend their money on something that I'm going to put on the shelf and it's going to collect dust," said Gill.

Carmen Million, with the Southwest Louisiana Better Business Bureau, said it's important to do your research before purchasing a gift card.

"What we at the BBB encourage consumers to do is be very careful and understand the rules when they purchase a gift card. They need to know if there's an expiration date," said Million.

Recent federal rules dealing with bank and retail gift cards help to protect consumers concerning fees and expiration dates. Also, she said it's important to carefully inspect the card before buying. 

"We've purchased gift cards in the past where it's been tampered with and what somebody has done is go into that particular store and taken the number off the gift card and cashed it without anybody being aware of that," said Million.

And, if you give a card, provide the recipient the receipt in case the card is lost or stolen.

"If you lose it and somebody finds it and uses it, then you've lost the cash on it.  the cash value. But if you've misplaced it and you don't know where it is and you feel like it's been stolen then you should have the information in order to cancel it and that will come in the packaging and the receipt," said Million.

Of course, gift cards should be treated like cash and spent soon, said Million. 

And even if they're not quite as personal as a gift, Stephanie has as much fun with gift cards as a carefully selected beautifully wrapped gift.

"I hide them in the Christmas tree and I'll wrap it for or five times and the box will get smaller as they unwrap it. So, I've just made fun out of it," said Gill.

For consumer tips for givers and receivers, click here.

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