The popularity of giving gift cards increased over the last ten years.  It seems to have been easier to give a gift card than to give gifts that may or may not have been something the receiver could use.  However, the giver never anticipated sometimes the receiver may find themselves holding onto a gift card for whatever the reason.  Or, the receiver never realized there may have been a time limit as to when the card would be valid.  But even then no one anticipated the economic issues that would cause problems.

We never realized that some of our major businesses which have been around for years would all of a sudden no longer be secure.  Never considered they would no longer be there.  Never even thinking that we could no longer rush out in the middle of the night and find that much needed item.

Since 2004, the nation has seen some of the worst economic conditions in the last twenty years.  Food has increased not the usual and what was considered reasonable two or three cent an item per year, but twenty and thirty cents per month.  Daily increases in the cost of oil has sent our country into what some think is an economic crisis of epidemic proportion.

Bankruptcies are now peaking. Each day, the company I work for receives at least two new notifications of formerly what were considered stable businesses, filing Bankruptcy. So, the issue we have to now deal with is, when you give an individual a gift card, how long will that gift card be valid.  Businesses will not deny an individual a sale.  If you walk into a business and request a gift card, they are going to accept your money.  There is no way the cashier is going to say, “sorry sir or  ma’am, we will be filing for bankruptcy or closing our doors tomorrow.”  So, the question is, “how does the consumer protect themselves?”

What to Look Out for Before Buying a Gift Card

Companies begin to show, maybe not obvious but minor, small subtle signs that will be a hint to a regular customer of a problem. Something like mints that are normally placed on the counter offered free in the past are no longer available.  You may notice the number of regular personnel has declined.  Or even, the uniforms once immaculate are now maybe showing not much, but a hint of wear.

You must be extra aware of the warning signs when purchasing gift cards.  Never purchase gift cards from a store or business your or the receiver are not familiar with. The small stores or businesses if open  for only a short period of time will not be able to replace, refund or provide a substitute if the business is closed.

Or what about the restaurant that opens for a period of time, generally offering the most delicious foods at the onset.  A few months later, the doors are closed and no one is available to answer your questions.  Gift cards to these establishments are no longer any good and cannot be used at any other location.

Timeless Gift Cards That Never Expire

There are gift cards that span time: gift cards that will not expire and can be used indefinitely. There are gift cards that can be used whenever you wish, wherever you wish.  These are the cards I would recommend an individual purchase when giving a gift card.

For example: the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Bahama Breeze are all owned by the same individual.  His gift cards offer the owner the option to be used at any of these chains.  There is no expiration date on the cards and if you have ever ventured inside of one of these restaurants, I am sure you would agree, there seems to be no chance of an issue or problem indicated.  We all have to eat, so the card will probably be used quickly and the meal will be highly enjoyed.

Credit Card Gift Cards

The very best choice offered when purchasing a gift card for anyone is to consider purchasing gift cards with the MasterCard, Visa or American Express Logo.  These cards are prepaid for amounts up to $500.  The receiver has the ability to use the card for purchases at locations anywhere within the continental United States and some countries abroad.  The convenience of using these cards is undeniable.

The user will have no issues to worry about.  If there are any problems with the card, the receiver can simply contact the buyer for receipt information.  I have even known of some givers providing the receipt along with the card.  In case there is any problem, the receiver has the receipt available.

The credit card gift cards are absolutely the best.  The user is not required to select from one specific business; they may use the card at any location accepting the MasterCard, Visa or American Express Card.  The cards do not expire.  If the business they considered making a purchase from goes under, they simply choose a different business.

There you have it.  Gift cards are a major source of convenience for the giver and the receiver.  The problem occurs when the receiver may waits too long to use the card, the card may be misplaced, forgotten, or the business goes under.

If you are sure the person you are purchasing the card for has one specific item in mind, you know the exact price, they are headed there the very next day to make the purchase, go ahead and give them the gift card. But, remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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