New Jack City: Gift Cards that Take; No Mas

Nothing makes me happier than receiving gift cards for Christmas…

Especially when they’re not from a specific retailer but universally branded so that they can be used about anywhere.
 
So Hearne, please make it a Visa or American Express gift card for me this year.
 
In the past, many of us have been ripped off by fees and charges levied against such cards by unscrupulous merchants.
But that’s all been changed since the government recently evoked the new ‘Card Act’ which is now in effect.
 
The new gift card provisions apply to gift certificates, store gift cards and generic-use gift cards such as Visa or American Express (gift) cards that can be used anywhere the network brand is accepted.
 
Here’s what the new card act means to you—or better – to the person receiving the card from you.
 
# 1—LONGER EXPIRATION PERIODS!
A gift card balance now cannot expire for at least 5 years after the date the card was purchased, or the last load was made, whichever is later.
 
# 2—LIMITS ON CERTAIN FEES!
The recipient of your card will have more time to spend the balance before fees deplete it.
No activity or so called service fees (including balance inquiry fees or ATM fees) can be charged unless the card hasn’t been used in 12 months of inactivity.
And only one such fee can be deducted from the balance per month.
 
# 3—NEW ON-THE-CARD DISCLOSURES!
Under the new act, gift cards are now required to have key information on them including the frequency and amount of any fees that may be charged.
Expiration information must also be on the card as well as a toll-free number to call or website address (if available) for additional information.
 
# 4—EXCEPTIONS ON DISCLOSURES!
Legislation known as the ‘Eco-Gift Card Act’ has delayed the date by which the industry must print compliant gift cards until after the holiday season.
Existing stock produced before April 1, 2010 can be sold through January 31, 2011 as long as the cards meet the other requirements regarding expiration, fees and disclosure of consumer’s rights through alternative methods (i.e. in-store signage and advertising.)
After January 31, 2011 all gift cards on store shelves must have the required disclosures printed on them!
 
But take note that other cards not marketed as gift cards such as prepaid calling cards and rebate cards offered by stores are not subject to restrictions in the new ‘Card Act’ rules!
 
So happy card giving and for those of you planning to remember me, the name’s spelled P-O-E-S-S-I-G-E-R.

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