Fraud Watch: Don’t wait to use gift cards

Posted at 12:29 PM, Jul 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-12 14:29:42-04

HELENA – When you’re picking out a present, a gift card can feel like an especially convenient choice.

“We know that gift cards are very popular, because of the flexibility that it provides to the people that are going to use them – what they purchase and when they purchase,” said Marcus Meyer, an investigator with the Montana Office of Consumer Protection.

But Meyer said if you’re the one receiving a card you might not want to wait too long before spending it.

“It’s better to use those gift cards right away, versus letting them sit for years,” he said.

One concern is that a retailer could file for bankruptcy or go out of business completely. If that happens, Meyer said it can be difficult to redeem a gift card from that business.

“Oftentimes, you can’t get the money back on those cards,” he said.

In this case, he said, it pays to be paying attention.

“Be looking for notices of a possible closure of a store, or a possible bankruptcy, and know the time frame of when that’s going to happen so they can redeem those cards before it’s too late,” he said.

Some gift cards may also come with a fee if you wait too long to use them. In Montana, cards issued for use at a single business can’t set an expiration date or charge an inactivity fee, but ones used at multiple retailers may have different rules.

“They don’t fall under the state regulations, so they may expire or have fees after a certain amount of time,” said Meyer.

Meyer said, if you have any issues with a business or questions about gift card rules, you can contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500. Information is also available on the agency’s website.