Beware gift cards that give up the ghost


CHOICE study shows many lose out on gift card gifts

Gift cards can be a convenient present, but according to a CHOICE study, if you don’t choose carefully you could be flushing your money away in a growing industry worth $1.5 billion a year.*

CHOICE found more than one in two of their surveyed members had a gift card expire before using its full value. In the US, new consumer protection laws mean gift cards must have a life of at least five years.

"Gift cards can be a handy way to give a present but always check the terms and conditions carefully and beware short expiry dates and how stores handle lost and stolen cards," says CHOICE Spokesperson Ingrid Just.

CHOICE looked at 15 gift cards from major retailers and found only one - from Bunnings - didn’t have an expiry date. The rest were only valid between six months to two years. David Jones and JB Hi-Fi, however, say they will honour or exchange expired cards.

“CHOICE thinks there’s no good reason why gift cards cannot have much longer lives or no expiry at all. Consumers may have a responsibility to use them before they lose them but the industry counts on the fact many will not do so,” says Ms Just.

For this reason CHOICE recommends gift cards from Coles Group & Myer and Wish (Woolworths group) as these cards allow you to buy everyday items from a number of stores which minimises the risk of the cards expiring before use. The Bunnings gift card also comes without an expiry date and allows card holders to receive cash change up to $9.95.

Another option is to convert an unwanted gift card to cash or exchange the gift card via the internet. A new website, www.cardlimbo.com.au, allows you to sell unwanted gift cards from about 100 retailers at between 60-90% of the card's purchase price. The site also sells gift cards at a discount.

What to look out for when buying gift cards:

  • Expiry dates
  • Fine print around lost or stolen cards
  • Restrictions on which shops accept the card
  • Hidden fees and charged

To see CHOICE's full report on gift cards go to www.choice.com.au/giftcards

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