Hidden gift card fees

Marketplace Staff Oct 27, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Now a little something from the Marketplace Desk of Hidden Fees. You know we hate ’em. Today subject is a present that keeps on taking. Not all gift cards are created equal. Kathy Kristoff is with the Los Angeles Times. Her latest column looks at the pricey differences between single retailer and multi-retailer cards. Specific stores issue single retail plastic.

KATHY KRISTOFF: You are only going to use them at Starbucks or Borders or wherever and those cards are governed by state laws. State laws often restrict the fees that can be charged on those cards.

And they don’t usually have an expiration date. Or a charge to activate them. Sometimes it pays to go single. Multi-retail cards carry some baggage.

KRISTOFF: They often are branded by Visa and MasterCard or American Express and almost always you pay a fee to buy the card and everybody knows about that one but they need to pay a lot of attention to what happens after that because in many cases if the card isn’t used for a period of months, they are going to start charging you a monthly fee

And that monthly fee obviously nibbles away at the card’s value, $5 a month. Some banks even charge to check your balance. So Kathy’s advice? Read the packaging.

KRISTOFF: You’ll have to put your glasses but somewhere on that package it’s probably got all the fees and charges on that card. You need to use it before those fees start to hit or think about getting something else or just giving cash so you won’t be nickled and dimed to death.

Oh, one other way to keep your spare change? Download our free Marketplace Money podcasts. Just visit our website. It’s marketplace.org and click on the podcast link.

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