In a National Retail Federation survey of over 8,700 consumers conducted by BIGresearch in October of 2010, it was concluded that 57% of those surveyed wanted to receive gift cards for the upcoming season. Clothing, Books and Jewelry rounded out the top 4 at 48.2%, 47.3% and 23% respectively.
In the past, gift cards have been a popular choice for shoppers who are challenged with time or ideas. Many cards that could be used everywhere had expiration dates and inactivity fees. And those cards offered by a specific retailer might not have such restrictions, but were good only where the card was offered.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) enacted last year imposes new consumer-friendly restrictions on gift cards hoping to forego the billions of dollars lost every year due to expired, misplaced or inactive cards. Below is a summary of the CARD Act for cards sold after August 22, 2010:
- Cards cannot expire in less than 5 years.
- Inactivity fees cannot be charged unless card has been dormant 12 months. After that it is ok.
- Replacement card fees cannot be charged for lost or stolen cards.
- Purchase fees above the face value of the card can be charged (typically on issuer or bank gift cards).
- Disclosure of fees, expiration dates and a toll-free number must be on back of card (existing cards produced before April 1, 2010 will have until January 31, 2011 to be used or removed).
- Card issuers are required to use several methods to inform consumers of their rights under the law, including signs in stores, information on websites and advertisements.
- There are no provisions for consumers possessing cards from bankrupt companies.
- Rebate, loyalty, promotional cards, paper gift cards and gift certificates are excluded from the law.
Bankrate.com does and annual survey of gift cards and fees. To obtain more information, visit their website here.
For smart tips on how to use gift cards click here.