Consumers shouldn’t hold on to gift cards

Hidden fees and thieves could be reducing your gift cards value.

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. (WWLP) – Gift cards offer great convenience, but consumer organizations warn when reliable retailers go out of business, you could be out of luck.

“I feel like that’s more of an issue for smaller businesses, like Barnes & Noble or Starbucks, they’re more established. It has happened, like Borders. I think it happened a while ago,” said Anna Kotorobay of West Springfield.

State law requires gift cards be valid for at least seven years after purchase, but Springfield consumer expert Milagros Johnson said if a business closes, there is no real remedy to redeem your gift card for cash.

Johnson recommends using your gift cards fast, and sticking with large chain stores, if you’re going to get a gift card, but warns there are still some risks.

“It actually happened to me once, cause someone gave me the card, and actually nothing was on it, so it was weird,” said Valentina Shyshla of West Springfield.

Johnson said sometimes this can happen when thieves steal the information from gift cards on display. They will wait to use the card until they can see online that an amount has been added to it.

This holiday season, consider giving cash. Even gift cards issued from credit card companies can come with hidden activation fees or monthly fees, reducing their value. When giving a gift card, include a receipt and read the fine print.