• Make sure you buy from a known and trusted source — Always check out a business online at indy.bbb.org, and look for Accredited Businesses you can trust. Buy from sources you are familiar with, and avoid online auction sites; cards sold there could be counterfeit or fraudulently obtained.
• Read the fine print before buying — Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought online or by phone? Will any fees be deducted from the card once purchased? Are there inactivity fees? If so, when do they start and how often will they take effect?
• Inspect the card before buying it — Verify that no protective stickers have been removed and that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN. Report any damaged cards to the retailer. If possible, ask for a card from behind the counter. These gift cards are hidden from people who could possibly take the number off the back of the card.
• Provide the recipient with backup — When giving a card as a gift, include the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen. Before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a business that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless. If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used. A business that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the business or its competitors to find out if they currently redeem the cards, or if they will do so at a later date.
• Treat the gift card like cash — Report lost or stolen cards to the issuer immediately. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen while others will, but often for a fee. Use your gift cards as soon as possible; it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.