Making Sure Gift Cards Work For You

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 19, 2012 Updated Nov 19, 2012 at 7:16 PM EDT

INDIANA, (www. incnow.tv) --- The popularity of gift cards is growing.

They are now a $1-hundred billion business.

But there is a downside, as a number of consumers are letting the cards go to waste.

It's sort of a variation on the old phrase, "Use it or lose it".

Industry experts say roughly 20 percent of all gift cards go unredeemed.

That's $20-billion dollars a year.

In 2010, new federal laws kicked in.

Retailers and restaurants, for instance, can no longer set expiration dates on cards.

But the changes don't cover the fact that issuers can still charge fees every time you use the card, check the balance or ask for a replacement card.

Department stores push gift cards in a big way.

" Ideally this allows us to give consumers another reason to come here versus anywhere else, and they're redeemable forever, so if, you know, they forget about it, but three years down the road, you find it, you can still come back in and shop us," says Hector Hernandez, with the Human Resources Department at the Glenbrook Target store.

" We really tell you to take that fine print on the back and check that out before you purchase the card, because you could be paying additional fees," says Marjorie Stephens, with Northeast Indiana’s Better Business Bureau office.

If a card has been inactive for at least a year, there is no limit on monthly fees a company can charge.

The issuer has to tell you about it, so the key is explore the details of gift cards before buying them.

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