Saving: What to look for when buying gift cards

December 10, 2013

At Applebees buy $50 in gift cards and get a $10 gift card free.

At L.L. Bean spend more than $50 and get a free $10 gift card.

At California Pizza Kitchen, Bonefish Grill, and Outback Steakhouse if buy $100 in gift cards you can get a $20 gift card free.

Papa John's will give you a free large 1-topping pizza when you buy $25 in gift cards.

At Qdoba Mexican Grill buy $30 in gift cards and get a free entree.

And at The Children's Place, buy $40 in gift cards and get a $10 off coupon for use on a future purchase.

And if you receive a gift card, use it right away! An estimated $1.8-billion worth of gift cards purchased last year are gathering dust and likely never to be redeemed.

Federal legislation requires retailers to honor gift cards for five years but monthly inactivity fees can kick in after one year, draining the value of the card long before it expires.

Gift cards with bank logos like American Express or Visa often have an activation fee or purchase charge, as much as $6.

Anthony Giorgianni from Consumer Reports tells us, "Lost cards are another headache. Several big retailers, such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Puma, and Aeropostale, say they won't replace them. Other retailers may charge you a hefty fee."

With the Visa Card you can get at Simon Malls, it'll cost you $15 to replace a lost or stolen card.

"One more drawback, don't expect the same fraud protections you get with traditional credit cards," said Giorgianni.

If you buy a gift card - keep your receipt.

Also, gift card laws vary from state to state. Check out some of the regulations by following the links below.

PA gift card laws:

New Jersey gift card rules:

Delaware gift card rules:

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