Consumer Reports Takes on Gift Cards

Consumer Reports has launched a public education campaign aimed at creating awareness of the pitfalls associated with gift cards.

The consumer advocacy officially began its campaign Tuesday with a full-page ad in the New York Times.

The ad, reads: “Dear Shopper, Last year, shoppers like you were out $8 billion because of unused, lost, or expired gift cards. Easy money for retailers. Lost money for you. Yours truly, Consumer Reports.”

In addition to the ad, the campaign has launched a “holiday shopping hub” Web page that provides tips on how to avoid gift card problems and allow users to share stories of gift card woe.

The group also released its latest survey, which finds that 27 percent of gift card recipients have not used one or more of these cards, up from 19 percent at the same time last year. And among consumers with unredeemed cards from last season, 51 percent have 2 or more.

The majority of respondents said that they did not have the time to redeem the cards, according to the survey. Not finding anything they wanted was another popular excuse given by respondents. Nearly a third said they forgot about their cards.

Consumer Reports advises shoppers to be wary of bank cards, which tend to have higher fees and restrictions than other types of gift cards.

They also recommend checking the merchant’s prices to make sure that the amount of the card you purchase will be enough for the recipient to buy something without having to supplement their own money.

Other tips to help steer clear of gift card headaches include: registering the card, use the card quickly, especially if the card has an expiration date or monthly maintenance fee and, finally, spend the entire amount of the card.