PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s tempting to give gifts cards, but there’s a downside as up to 19 percent of those gift cards will never be redeemed.

Consumer Reports says if you decide to go this route, pick your cards carefully and to think twice before giving them.

“Gift cards are definitely better than they used to be. New regulations have eliminated some fees, so you can’t be charged if you don’t use it within the first year. And cards can’t expire for five years,” Mandy Walker from Consumer Reports Money Adviser said.

Even with new protections, there are still drawbacks.

“The new rules apply to merchant and bank-issued cards. So, if you have a reloadable card or one that’s not marketed as a gift card, you’re going to want to pay close attention to those terms,” Walker said.

Bank-issued cards are convenient because you can use them almost anywhere, but they come with fees.

One Visa gift card from U.S. Bank costs $3.95 if you get it from a branch or $6.95 if you buy it online.

After 12 months, you’re charged a $2.50 a month inactivity fee if you don’t use it.

Even charity gift cards come with fees.

“We found one that charged a $4.95 transaction fee and it charged another three percent to transfer the funds,” Walker said.

If a gift card is still the way you want to go, retail store cards usually have little or no fees. You just want to make sure the person you are buying for likes to shop in the store.

“When you’re giving a gift card, you want to include the terms and the policies, as well as the receipt, which might be needed if the card is lost or stolen,” Walker said.

Better yet, why not give cash or a check? That way people can shop wherever they want, whenever they want with no strings attached.

If you receive a gift card, check out the terms to see if you have to register it in case it’s lost or stolen.

Consumer Reports says put it right in your wallet instead of a desk drawer, so it’s handy. Also, spend gift cards as soon as possible, especially these days.

You don’t want to be holding a gift card for a company that goes out of business.


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