New rules took effect in August 2010 that restricts gift card expiration dates and fees which only helps consumers. Retail gift cards, which you only can use at a particular merchant or group of merchants, such as a chain of restaurants are becoming more popular online as rewards for members of shopping websites. Network-branded gift cards, such as Visa or MasterCard ones, have also been affected by the new rules which you can use anywhere the brand is accepted.
Gift card issuers are no longer able to change fees or amount of the card unless it has not been used for a consecutive 12 months. After the twelve month time frame, the issuer can charge only one monthly fee. The cards can’t expire earlier than five years which allows consumers to spend a little more freely. Loyalty shopping websites such as Bucks4Me offers their members the ability to earn gift cards and people are flocking to the idea.
When you earn gift cards that have a reloadable balance, it can’t expire until five years from the last time you reloaded them. If your card itself expires, but the balance doesn’t, the card issuer must give you a replacement card at no charge. You should be able to find out how to get a replacement card on the back of the one you have now. Any expiration date and fee information has to be disclosed on the back of the card or on its packaging.
The new rules apply only to gift cards, not to other types of prepaid cards. For example, a Discover or American Express card intended as a checking-account substitute isn’t covered. At loyalty shopping sites that offer different ways to earn gift cards members are able to save money on things they are going to purchase either way.