‘Buyer beware’ of gift cards until next year – Bangor Daily News

‘Buyer beware’ of gift cards until next year – Bangor Daily News.

By Russ Van Arsdale
Executive director, Northeast CONTACT

Black Friday has come and gone. You’ve made the rounds of stores. You’ve searched the Internet for that “perfect gift” and come up empty.

How about a gift card?

They’re touted as the perfect way to allow the recipient to get whatever he or she wants with no exchanges or hassles to get in the way of instant gratification. It’s perfect. There is no downside.

Unless that gift card ends up among the $6.8 billion in cards that aren’t cashed in every year. Then it’s just a hunk of plastic. It may be a hunk of plastic that costs more than you’d expect.

The federal Credit CARD Act of 2009 did away with expiration dates (Maine pulled the plug on expiring gift cards some time ago). New federal rules affecting gift cards were to take effect in August. Consumer advocates were hardly surprised when the money-makers cried because cards they had already printed did not have the new expiration date policy printed on them.

They asked for a delay, and the Federal Reserve Board agreed to put off implementation until Jan. 31, 2011. As of that date, no gift certificate or gift card produced before April 1, 2010, can be sold unless its expiration date is clearly spelled out. That means “buyer beware” this shopping season. While entities subject to Maine law cannot impose an expiration date on gift cards or prefunded bank cards, purchase of those items in other states may not carry similar protections.

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