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The trouble with gift cards

They're a great last-minute Christmas present, but gift cards can also be a waste of money.
 
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02.Most popular gift cards for Christmas presents

Gift cards good and bad infographic


What makes a good gift card?

Expiry date

  • Choose a card that doesn't expire, like the Bunnings card (which tops our list of popular cards)
  • Go for one with a long expiry date like the second-most popular card – Coles Group & Myer – which is valid for two years. 
  • Or look for a card that is valid for at least 12 months, and preferably allows a grace period or even allows you to exchange an expired card for a new one – Woolworths Wish ticks all the boxes.

Balance

  • Ideally, you'd like to be able to check the card balance easily in-store, online and via phone. Beware of cards that charge a fee to check the balance.

Transactions

  • Ideally, you should be able to use the card for an unlimited number of transactions until you've spent the whole amount. Minimum spend amounts can be an issue, especially if the retailer doesn't give change, as there may be an amount left on the card that you can't use.

Lost or stolen cards

  • You usually have to treat your gift card like cash – if you lose it, it's gone. However, some retailers allow you to cancel and re-issue a lost card, sometimes for a fee. Conditions apply, so hold on to your receipts for gift cards and jot down details such as the card number.

Restrictions

  • You can usually only use a gift card in a specific store, so choose carefully – surveyed members said the worst cards to receive were for stores they don't shop in.
  • Cards that can be used in a group of stores, such as the Coles Group & Myer gift card and Woolworths Wish card, are better.
  • Shopping centre cards can be used in an even wider variety of stores, but they may not be accepted by all stores in the centre. For example, the Westfield card can't be used in Coles or in cinemas.
  • EFTPOS and Visa/MasterCard gift cards can be used at almost any retailer.

Fees and charges

  • Fees are mainly a problem with Visa and MasterCard gift cards. Most retailer cards have no fees.
  • Some cards like Westfield charge an issue fee.
  • Others may charge a fee for extending the expiry period or reinstating lost or stolen cards.
 

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