Editor's note: This is the 2005 version of the gift card survey. See the latest version here.
For its annual
gift card survey, Bankrate.com polled the top
20 retailers in the nation, and the top
four credit card brands -- Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.
several of the retailers represent more than one store chain, such as Federated
Department Stores, which includes both Bloomingdale's and Macy's, a total of 34
gift cards were reviewed.
The offerings from the retail stores were generally more consumer-friendly
than those of the credit card issuers. Only three retail
stores (Albertson's, Macy's and Bloomingdale's) still place expiration dates on
their gift cards. Those expiration dates range from two to five years. All four
cards backed by the major credit card issuers -- American Express, Visa, MasterCard
and Discover -- have expiration dates.
have laws that prohibit expiration dates on gift cards. If your state does allow
gift card expiration dates, the balance left on the card will go to state charities
or the balance will begin to dwindle by a percentage set by the issuing store.
retailers are trying to persuade consumers not to sit on their gift cards for
long periods of time. But just two retailers in our survey (Walgreens and any
of the Delhaize chain) charge fees if the card is not used or activated within
a year or two after initial purchase. The fees are $2 or $2.10 a month.
also should be aware that gift cards are not the same as cash! With most retailers
and credit card issuers, the money that goes unused on their cards stays on their
cards. Be aware that if you only spend $46 dollars on a $50 dollar gift card,
you won't be getting $4 back. The unused balance remains on the card and is not
Only two out of the
25 retailers (Costco and Albertson's) surveyed allow cash back, but it's up to
individual store policies and at their discretion. If you want complete satisfaction,
experts say spend the total amount on the gift card.
following charts should tell you everything you need to know about purchasing
the right gift card. The first chart covers the top
20 retailers in the nation. The second chart displays the policies of the
top four credit card brands.