Gift Cards: A Better Deal Now
Gift cards have always seemed like a good idea for those of us who didn't know what to give a friend or relative for a birthday or holiday. But the recipient didn't always get such a good deal when the gift card didn't hold its value very long.
But new rules make gift cards purchased on or after August 22 more appealing. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act requires balances on all merchant and general gift cards, such as a Visa gift card, to remain valid for five years. Money added to the card must also be good for five years. If the actual card expires before then, you can get your balance transfered to a new card at no cost.
And the new rules ban inactivity fees unless the card hasn't been used in 12 months. However, you still may be charged a fee to purchase a gift card.
The rules still won't help you if you receive a card to a store where you don't shop. But you can exchange your gift card for another you'll use -- or just sell it for cash -- at several Web sites, such as Plastic Jungle and SwapaGift.com. See Get Cash Fast for tips on selling gift cards.