I’ve been getting lots of questions this week about gift cards since Bankrate’s survey of 62 gift cards and its poll on people’s gift card preferences came out this week. But the one question that so far has stumped me has come from a reader on our site: Can gift cards be used overseas?

I didn’t know then, but now I do. And the answer is: most likely not.

The information pamphlet that came with the American Express gift card says the card can be used at “U.S. merchants that accept American Express Cards.” Discover gift cards can only be used in U.S. locations, according to its online FAQ.

Visa gift cards can go either way. If the gift card states “Valid only in the United States” on the front, then the issuer — usually a bank — has decided it can be used just in the states, according to Visa’s FAQ online. Visa gift cards from both Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank are restricted to purchases in the U.S.

MasterCard gift cards, on the other hand, can be used anywhere worldwide where MasterCard debit transactions are accepted, according to its FAQ online. However, the BMO Harris Bank MasterCard gift card is an exception. It only can be used within the U.S.

Brand-specific gift cards appear to be mostly domestic-bound as well. Here is where a random selection of gift cards can be used.

Victoria’s Secret: U.S. and Puerto Rico
Gap: U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada
Home Depot: U.S., Canada and Mexico
QuickSilver: U.S.
Nike: U.S. and Puerto Rico
Hyatt: U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. It can be used at participating international locations but will be converted to the local currency.

The best way to find out if your gift card can be used other than stateside is to check the back of the card. If it’s not there, find the terms and conditions or FAQs online. Happy shopping!

Have you ever used a gift card abroad?

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