Other websites like Gift Card Swapping allow you to trade your gift card for one you’ll actually use.

If you’re feeling charitable, many nonprofits, including local schools and churches, will accept gift cards as donations. Can I lose the balance on my gift card?

The short answer: It depends on what state you live in.

The long answer: It depends on what state you live in, and the extent to which your state is complying with federal law.

In 2009, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act [gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ24/pdf/PLAW-111publ24.pdf] passed into federal law. (In New Jersey’s case, this policy has been deemed unconstitutional, so the state remains in flux between enforcing the overturned state standard and the federal standard.) Such provisions, which remove the profit for card sellers that comes with unused cards, have caused major issuers like American Express to pull out of grocery and convenience stores in some states.

For comparison, California grants gift card users with protection beyond the federal standard. Cards are never allowed to expire, even after five years, and dormancy fees can only be charged after two years of inactivity and only if the balance on the card is less than $5.

A good resource for finding the specific laws in your state can be found here.

Here is generally how it works:

Consumer purchases the gift card for any amount using cash or credit card – the clerk executes the sale via normal payment procedures on the register
Amount of the “gift value” is loaded and stored on the host database by swiping a magnetic strip card through a credit card terminal
Customer receipt shows balance on card – updated in real time
The card can be reloaded and may be used multiple times

Swiped through credit card terminal for host authorization
No cash back – customer receipt shows real-time card balance

Pooling: For multi-unit operations, as your cards are redeemed within other participating stores and other stores’ cards are redeemed within your store, the redemption amount is transferred at a specified time electronically. A typical loyalty program works something like this:

Enrollment – Consumer enrolls by completing a loyalty application.
Staff reviews for eligibility and ensures the loyalty card number is recorded on the application.
Consumers will earn X point per $ spent when they initially enroll and ongoing.

Activation – Consumer earns X point per $ spent as soon as they enroll.
Amount of the “loyalty points” is loaded and stored on the host database by swiping a magnetic strip card through a credit card terminal
Enter the amount of the purchase when prompted.
Customer receipt shows points balance on card – updated in real time.

Adding Points – Consumer earns X point per $ spent with each purchase.
Same procedure as activation transaction, but done as “add value” transaction.
Customer receipt shows points earned and cumulative balance on card – updated in real time.

Redemption – Redeemable at all participating locations (if applicable).
Swiped through credit card terminal for host authorization.
Enter amount of points to be redeemed when prompted.
Customer receipt shows real-time points balance.

A well-run gift and/or loyalty program can be a terrific revenue generator for a retailer.

One of the
reasons retailers like gift cards is that users often buy more
than the gift card’s value, so make sure you activate the card
with enough value to buy a decent present.

Type of Gift Card: There are two main types of gift cards to
choose from: store-specific or general-purpose. Such “e-gift” cards are certainly convenient
but since they almost invariably must be redeemed online, keep
that in mind before buying.

Gift Card Scams: It is possible for gift cards to be
tampered with, and it’s amazing how ingenious thieves can be.
For example, in one con, thieves make note of the identifying
information displayed on gift cards being offered for sale,
then periodically call to check if they’ve been activated. (This will protect you against the card’s having been
swapped out of its packaging for a zero-balance one.) Never buy
them from auction sites – according to the National Retail
Federation, many of these cards are stolen or counterfeit.

Using a Gift Card

If you have received a gift card, the first thing you should do
is familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your present.
Knowing the details and limitations of the card will allow you
to make the most of your purchases, as well as avoid
unnecessary deductions from your funds.

Prepaid gift cards issued by VISA and MasterCard offer a way to use a gift card anywhere credit cards are accepted. Prepaid debit card issuers and 60 percent of store gift card issuers offer the potential to obtain a replacement card with the remaining balance if the original is lost or stolen. Other card issuers have been quickly following suit.

In addition to less expiration date worries there are now a handful of companies dedicated to redeeming major retail gift cards for recipients of unwanted, unredeemed gift cards. Embossed text gives the card that engraved look, a very personal touch.

Still with all the work to personalize a gift card they still seem to need help to stand out in the crowd of greeting cards and gift bags. With the advent of prepaid debit gift cards from VISA, MasterCard, American Express and DiscoverCard folks can give a gift card valued at $500 to as much as $3000 dollars depending on the provider. Papers including instructions and card use should also be sent to the client as some cards do not have expiration dates printed on the card itself.

With all the attention gift cards have been given these past few years it would seem they are here to stay.

Is there a solution to this dilemma?

Gift Card Swapping

Now there are gift card websites that allow users to swap or redeem unwanted gift cards and gift certificates online. What this means is that like other unwanted gifts, gift cards are now very much returnable.

And if your looking at the glass half full there’s more of an upside to that pile of gift cards in your dresser drawer. Eat, drink tell stories and then swap away!

Store Issued Gift Cards VS Prepaid Debit Gift Cards

Still there is a more viable solution to giving gift cards giving. The recipient can shop just about anywhere, anytime and buy just about anything they want with the a debit gift card.

For some reason purchasers of prepaid debit gift cards tend to load more money on it than store issued gift cards. Take the time to find out just what kind of gift card they will value most and give your recipient a gift card they’re sure to appreciate.

Mark Askew is the founder of the Fimark’s Prepaid Debit Gift Cards at http://prepaid-gift-card.fimark.net The website provides helpful information regarding gift giving trends and how to choose the right prepaid debit and gift card solution for family, friends, business promotion and corporate incentives.