Gift cards may be the gift that stops giving

Print Article

Here’s the story. Last year I was given two $50 gift cards. My plan was to buy something that I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself and apparently that occasion never occurred because a couple of weeks ago I found them still safely tucked in a drawer.

I was happy. I could treat for dinner at the expensive restaurant we had planned to go to. When the check came, I put down the two cards and the server came back to tell me that one card was worth $36 and the other $40. What? I’m not good at math, but I knew that didn’t come out to $100.

Here’s the deal. Even though these cards said there were no fees after purchase, two things were at work. One is that after a year the bank can deduct $2 or more per month from the balance on the card in what they call maintenance fees; and two is that a restaurant will commonly hold back 20 percent in hopes (I assume) that you’ll leave the card behind as a tip.

According to the National Retail Federation, 80 percent of shoppers plan to give gift cards as presents this holiday season.

“Additionally, gift cards have topped holiday wish lists for seven years running, with six in 10 consumers hoping to receive one for Christmas this year. Meanwhile the CEB Tower Group (technology research and analyst expertise for the financial services industry) reports $1.7 billion in gift cards went unused in 2012, leaving quite a bit of money on the collective table,” the NRF said.

Whew! That was four years ago. Imaging how much more money is hanging out there today. I’m not opposed to banks making money, although I think paying close to $5 to buy a $50 gift card is a bit high. But what I really don’t see is where they get away with these “maintenance fees.”

However, it’s legal. A trip to the Federal Reserve’s website found there was a law passed in 2010 that reads, “The final rules prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless: (1) the consumer has not used the certificate or card for at least one year; (2) no more than one such fee is charged per month; and (3) the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees.”

Aha! That’s when I went back to the paperwork. The packaging clearly stated “No Fees After Purchase.” Even the tiny print on the enclosed disclaimer, that I don’t suppose anyone but me has ever read, didn’t mention these fees. Shame, shame on the banks. You can tell I’m not happy.

I now implore you, that if you purchase a gift card, to be sure to tell the recipient to use it as if it literally will burn a hole in their pocket. And, I have to ask, whatever happened to cash?

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness bill is just common sense

March 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee I, like many Idahoans, depend upon our public lands for my livelihood. As a representative of the timber industry, I understand how important it is to have healthy forests that produce wood for produ...

Comments

Read More

Budget, bills keeping state’s legislators busy

March 12, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee As I write this on Friday evening, March 10, the Idaho Legislature has just completed its ninth week of this year’s legislative session. A total of 678 pieces of legislation have been prepared of whi...

Comments

Read More

An improved government is up to all of us

March 05, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about d...

Comments

Read More

Yes vote is the only answer for our schools

February 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee The battle of misinformation has been waged by a small group of naysayers in Bonner County. They question the need and second-guess those tasked with educating our young minds. However, it’s time ...

Comments

Read More