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What to know before you buy a gift card for someone this holiday season

Posted at 10:18 AM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 18:22:40-05

This is part of a larger TODAY'S TMJ4 series on Shopping Safety with stories airing all day on Monday, November 25. For more information, visit

The gift card business is booming. By the end of this year, researchers believe it will be valued at more than 1 trillion dollars worldwide. The Better Business Bureau said hackers have taken notice.

“Scammers love payment in gift card form because it's untraceable, so once you scratch that number off of the back and read that number over the phone to somebody the money is as good as gone,” said Lisa Schiller with the BBB.


Gift cards are similar to cash. If you lose it, or if you think it's been stolen, getting your money back can be tough. There's also the chance the retailer you bought it from closes.

“The Better Business Bureau always warns, use them right away as soon as possible because if a company goes out of business or files bankruptcy, that gift card is gone you cannot count on being able to use it,” Schiller said.

When Toys R's Us announced it was closing hundreds of its stores nationwide, it gave consumers 30 days to use its gift cards. Some merchants won't give you a warning. For companies up and running, the Federal Trade Commission enacted a rule back in 2010 that says money on retail and bank gift cards can't expire for at least five years from the date of purchase.

The BBB advises everyone to double-check the expiration date on gift cards you buy from local chains.

“A local business that is privately owned can set their own rules and regulations so you have to check with that,” Schiller said.

“Say a privately-owned boutique or a privately-owned restaurant, for example. They can set an expiration date of six months if they'd like or whatever they'd like,” she said.

Click here for more gift card protection tips.