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ICBA Offers Tips on Bank-Issued Gift Cards

Popularity of Gift Cards Requires Consumers to Know the Facts

Washington, D.C. (November 20, 2006)—With the holiday gift-giving season upon us, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) offers consumers tips about using bank-issued gift cards.

"By some estimates, as many as 60 percent of holiday shoppers plan on giving gift cards this year," said Terry J. Jorde, ICBA chairman and president and CEO of CountryBank USA, Cando, N.D. "They have practically become a way of life as a holiday gift, particularly for teenagers."

With upwards of $30 billion in gift card purchases expected during the 2006 holiday season, ICBA reminds consumers how important it is to know the facts about them. There are two types: retail gift cards that can only be used at a specific retailer and bank-issued gift cards that are accepted virtually anywhere. And even though they look like a credit card, gift cards should be treated as cash and are limited by the dollar amount loaded on the card by the purchaser. Some facts:

  • Know the card's terms and conditions - they vary by institution and generally are listed on the card, the card jacket or a separate sheet accompanying the card.

  • Some cards have an expiration date. It may appear on the card itself, on the card's sleeve or on the issuer's web site.

  • Keep the card's account number and customer service number in a safe place. You may need this information should your card become lost or stolen.

  • Sign the card in the space provided.

  • Before using the card, know your balance. Most issuers offer toll-free voice response systems where you can check your balance. Some banks allow you to check the balance by entering the card number on the bank's website.

  • Funds are immediately deducted from the available card balance when you make a purchase.

  • Most major retailers accept split payments - you can pay with the bank issued gift card and pay the balance of a purchase with another form of payment. But you have to tell the merchant the exact amount you want deducted from your bank-issued gift card.

  • It's a good idea to keep gift cards after the card balance has been used. You may need to show the card should you make a return or an exchange.

  • There may be fees for maintaining the account beyond a certain time period. Gift card inactivity fees are usually printed on the back of the card.

Learn more about gift cards by visiting your local community bank.