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The ins and outs of gift cards

Credit Cards » Compare Gift Cards

Gift cards are getting cheaper to buy and they offer more protections. That's the conclusion drawn from Bankrate's 2015 Gift Card Survey, which found a decline in the number of cards that charge purchase fees and an increase in the number of cards that offer loss and theft protection.

Gift card with gold bow in a box © iStock

Using data we collected Sept. 14-21, 2015, we looked at the terms and features of 60 different gift cards, including general purpose cards, store-branded retail cards, restaurant cards, airline cards and gas station cards.

Using the chart below, you can compare these cards to find the one that suits your needs based on factors such as the amount you can load onto the card or whether it can be purchased on and downloaded to a smartphone. This way, everyone comes out a winner this season.

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Select card features:
  • Expires
  • Inactivity fee
  • Loss/theft protection
  • PIN available
  • Reloadable
  • Mobile/e-card
  • Online balance check
  • Card shipped free
  • Purchase fees
  • Rewards

  • American Express

    • Loading limits: $25-$3,000. Denomination availability varies depending on gift card design.
    • Plastic: $25, $50, $100, $200, $500, $700, $1,000, $2,000, $3,000.
    • Mobile/e-cards not available; $3.95 for standard and personalized gift cards.
    • Cards not shipped to HI or VT.
    • Card has "Valid Thru" date, but if a balance remains it will not change and remain intact.
    • Shipping: USPS: $5.95 (for cards less than $200). Express 2nd Day: $8.95. Express Next Day: $15.95.
    • Cards purchased with $200 value or higher are not eligible for USPS shipping.
  • BMO Harris Bank MasterCard

    • Loading limits: $25-$1,000. Amounts over $500 need special arrangements in branch.
    • Expiration: Card will expire on the last day of the month shown on the front of the card. Upon expiration of the card, however, the underlying funds do not expire.
    • Inactivity fee: $3. The bank will charge an inactivity fee each calendar month the card remains inactive after 12 consecutive months of inactivity. If you then use the card to make a transaction, the bank will stop charging an inactivity fee unless and until another 12 consecutive months of inactivity occurs.
    • Purchase in branch only.
    • Purchase fee: $4 per card.
  • Fifth Third Bank MasterCard

    • Loading limits: $25-$2,500.
    • Expiration is up to about 10 years.
    • Purchase fee: $3.45.
    • Shipping fee: $15.
  • KeyBank MasterCard

    • Loading limits: $25-$2,500 ($500 max for non-customer).
    • Purchase fee: $3.95.
    • $2.50 monthly fee charged against any unused balance on the card beginning 12 months after the date the card was issued/purchased, or 1 month after the expiration date, whichever comes first.
    • Can be used at ATM: $1 withdrawal fee, $0.25 balance inquiry.
    • Purchase in branch only.
  • U.S. Bank Visa

    • Loading limits: $25-$500.
    • $2.50 fee per month after 12 consecutive months of inactivity.
    • Purchase fee: $3.95 at branch; $6.95 online.
    • Bank will charge $15 to replace a lost or stolen card; fee will be deducted from the card balance. A reissued card may take up to 30 days to process.
    • Card not available online. Must purchase in a branch.
    • Cards expire about 4 years after the date of issue.
  • Wells Fargo Visa

    • Loading limits: $10-$500 in store. $25-$500 online.
    • $2.50 fee per month after 12 consecutive months of inactivity.
    • Replacement card fee: $7.50; $15 fee if a check is written for remaining balance.
    • Wells Fargo is no longer selling gift cards in VT, nor can they be used in that state.
    • Purchase in store: $3.95; online: $3.95 plus $1.50 shipping.
    • Funds do not expire, though card has an expiration date (up to 4 years from purchase date). Card can be replaced for free after expiration as long as there is still a balance.



Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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