Smart tips for buying gift cards

Guest column - by John North

Gift cards make a great gift for just about anyone. It helps ease the burden of shopping online and/or in the store for many. Plus, you know the recipients will get something they like at the right size and no duplicates. People spend more than $130 billion on gift cards every year, and about $1 billion of those cards go unspent. Better Business Bureau offers tips on what to look for when shopping for a gift card.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers will plan to buy an average of four gift cards this year, worth about $45 each. When shopping for gift cards, BBB offers these tips:

• Read the fine print before purchasing to determine if there are fees or expiration dates.

• Look at the retailer’s financial situation. If the company looks to be on shaky ground, consider a gift card from another retailer.

• Purchase gift cards with credit cards. Your credit card company may offer protection if the company goes out business.

• Encourage recipients to use gift cards right away in case of store closings.

• Make sure gift cards haven’t been tampered with, removed and placed back in their holders or the backs haven’t been scratched off.

• Have employees scan gift cards to make sure they’re valid and have the proper value once purchased.

• Keep the original receipt with the card as proof of purchase.

• Advise recipients to register gift cards through the stores’ websites, if available, which allows them to check balances and get new cards if lost.

• Buy from trustworthy sources. Gift cards offered on online exchanges or auction sites are sometimes counterfeit or stolen.

• Keep your information private. Reputable organizations won’t ask for your personal information when purchasing a gift card.

• Be wary buying gift cards from multi-vendor racks at retail stores. Instead, purchase them from behind the register or counter at the store.

If you have problems with a gift card, you can call the retailer or contact the Federal Trade Commission at or call toll-free 877-382-4357. You can also contact your BBB for a list of BBB-accredited businesses in specific industries and business profiles of retailers and/or restaurants you’re planning to do business with. For more advice, visit or call 800-776-5301.

Guest column

by John North

The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.

The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.