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The 5 Reasons Why Gift Cards May Not be a Great Gift

Updated on September 15, 2016
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Renata Circeo-Loudon is the owner of Destin Area, Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals, specializing in affordable family and pet friendly homes.


One Billion in Cards Go Unredeemed

Gift cards are easy to give and even easier re-give. Despite their convenience, a surprising number of them go to waste. Sales of gift cards are expected to reach $100 billion this year, but more than $1 billion on gift cards still goes unredeemed annually, according research done by CEB TowerGroup. despite significant improvements in the law governing the use of these cards.

Gift Cards Get Misplaced

It is just a fact that Gift Cards end up in the proverbial "Sock Drawer" and are never with you when you want to redeem them. I have purchased a second wallet to put all of the Gift Cards in and keep it with me at all times. Before that we hardly ever had the Gift Cards with us and then we just forgot about them.

Businesses "Go Out of Business"

Recently, the Sports Authority announced it was closing all of its stores. Sad day for us Baseball Moms, but not surprising with all of the options for online purchases of sports gear. We hightailed over there with our Sports Authority Gift Card and purchased whatever we could with what was left in the store so we did not lose the value of the Gift Card.

According to the Federal Trade Commission you should consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant.

  • If you buy a card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated.
  • If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.
  • A company that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the company or its competitor to find out. Even if the company is not redeeming gift cards now, check back with them periodically; they may start redeeming cards at a later date.

Definitely, review the status of the Gift Cards in your possession from time to time so you don't loose the value.

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Cards like Google Play May Not Be Redeemable

My 10 Year Old son, a MInecraft enthusiest, recently received two Google Play Gift Cards for his Birthday in May. When trying to redeem them, we were given an error code BM-RGCH-06. Upon doing research it seemed to be a issue with living in different countries, so I contacted Google Support via the phone and they said my account had been suspended. Really? I have been buying games off of Google Play with my AMEX every month, so how has my account been suspended from using a Google Play Gift Card?

The response I got from Google was that my email was associated with a Google Merchant account that I opened to use like Paypal. It was so awful, I stopped using it after one transaction and one person could not figure out how to send money. They discountinued this service in 2013. Go figure...Here is the response:

Hello Renata,

Thank you for your patience about this concern. I already had a discussion with our specialist team and they have informed me that with the suspension of your account, you will not be able to receive a payout or use any account associated with that merchant account. I would suggest that you create a new account with a different email address so that you can use the gift cards. Please know that if there will be changes in the future, we will definitely, let you know through email. For more information on why your account may have been suspended, please review this article in our Help Center. I know this is frustrating and I apologize for any inconvenience this may have impacted you however, I really appreciate your patience and understanding about this.


The Google Wallet for Business Team

So after 3 months of not being able to use our Google Play Gift Cards, I contacted the Better Business Bureau and the Georgia Consumer Fraud Department as well as every retailer that sells or could sell a Google Play Gift Card.

Problem with setting up another Google account is that the original games don't transfer to the new email. They have started this Family Account now and we have started using that, but it is really difficult to set up and maneuver.

To add insult to injury, the second Google Play Card expired before we could re-gift it! I thought that was illegal!

Larry Page, the head of Google, has received a letter from the State of Georgia Department of Law regarding this case. I have yet to hear a response. As of September 15, 2016 the BBB case is still pending with a lot of back and forth going on.

Gift Cards Can Charge Fees or Expire

According to the Federal Trade Commission, new rules for gift cards went into effect on August 22, 2010. Here are the highlights from their website:

  • Money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased, or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card. If the expiration date listed on the card is earlier than these dates, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost.
  • Inactivity fees can be charged only after a card hasn't been used for at least one year, and you can be charged only once per month. But you may be charged a fee to buy the card or to replace a lost or stolen card.
  • The expiration date of a card must be clearly disclosed on the card, and fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.

Reporting Problems with Gift Cards

If you have a problem with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card. If you can't resolve the problem at that level, you may want to file a complaint with the appropriate authorities:

  • For cards issued by retailers, contact the Federal Trade Commission or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. Or you may file a complaint with your state Attorney General (for a list of state offices, visit
  • For cards issued by national banks, contact the Comptroller of the Currency's (OCC) Customer Assistance Group by calling 800-613-6743 or sending an e-mail The OCC charters, regulates, and supervises national banks.


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