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7 ways to make the most of gift cards

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Mark your calendar
Mark your calendar

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or Credit CARD Act, limits some of the fees gift card issuers can levy. Here's the rundown on the three major protections you need to know if you're using gift cards.

  • Funds on the cards must be good for at least five years. Money added later must also be good for at least five years.
  • Issuers generally aren't allowed to charge any fees within the first year after a gift card is purchased. You can be charged a fee to purchase the card and to replace a lost or stolen card.
  • After one year, issuers are limited to one fee per month, says John Breyault, director of the National Consumer League's Fraud Center.

Make sure you're aware of any fees associated with the cards you receive, says Michelle Jun, senior attorney with Consumers Union.

Use gift cards within a year of when they were purchased, she says.

One good way to remember just how long you have: Mark your calendar, says Mendelsohn. That way, you won't lose your gift card's value to fees or forgetfulness.

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