The Basics of Gift Cards And Knowing How Best To Use Them

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I love to receive gift cards and I love to give them. How many times have we been given something for our birthday, or for the holidays and would have loved to have been able to return the item to the store? Perhaps one doesn’t have a foggy idea what to give someone, yet, the gift card seems like the perfect way out of the little dilemma. Once a novel idea, the gift card seems to be here for the long run. And knowing the basics of gift cards and how to best use them can make this holiday season a little more enjoyable and profitable.

The basics of gift cards giving are quite simple, really. In essence, there are two different types of gift cards offered to the public: the “open loop” and the “closed loop” gift cards. The “open loop” gift cards are usually offered by a credit card company such as MasterCard or Visa. It is good wherever a credit card of these brand names is accepted. A “closed loop” card is only good at a certain retail store chain such as Macy’s or a gasoline chain such as Shell.

On a whole, “closed loop” cards do not tend to expire or have non-activity fees if not used during the first year. The “open loop” cards do generally have expiration dates and carry fees at the point of sale many times. So let the consumer beware of the difference between “closed loop” and “open loop” gift cards and check the terms of the gift cards being given or received. Now this information must be printed on the back of the card or made public upon request by calling a customer service number on the back. (1)

If you receive a gift card, make sure you don’t delay in using it and spend it wisely…that’s cash in your pocket! If you have several at home or in an office drawer, total them up!

* Get “blood out of a turnip” by spending the gift card on “on sale”, reduced items.

* If your remaining card balance is small, visit the clearance racks at the back of the store.

* Some retailers won’t accept gift cards for online purchases. Check this out first.

* Some retailers owned by the same company may accept each other’s gift cards for both in-store and online purchases. For instance, Old Navy purchases may be honored by The Gap.

* Some consumers may even be able to swap gift cards online. Sites such as and facilitate consumers to buy, sell and swap gift cards.

All in all, this writer loves to both give and receive gift cards and using them to my best advantage. Remembering to check for expiration dates and unwanted fees, this should make this holiday season a breeze and a pleasure for those maxing the use of their gift cards. (2)



(1) Getting A Gift Card? Heres What to Know.

(2) 5 Savvy Ways To Spend Gift Cards

Authored by Beverly Anne Sanchez


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