Gift cards have quickly become the go-to present for the loved ones you’re just not sure what to buy for.  But like everything else, gift cards may have hidden fees and strings attached.  

The Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers that it’s important to read the fine print before making a purchase and giving a gift card to co-workers, friends or family.

Under B.C. law, most gift cards and gift certificates issued or sold in the province are not allowed to have expiry dates.  But there are exceptions.  Mall cards and gift certificates for a specific service, like a spa, can have expiry dates.

Here are some helpful tips from BBB regarding gift card purchases:

  • Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
  • Read the fine print before you buy. Is there a fee to buy the card? If you buy a card by phone or online, are there shipping and handling fees? If you don't like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
  • See whether any fees will be deducted from the card after you purchase it.
  • Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that none of the protective stickers have been removed. Make sure that the codes on the back of the card haven't been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
  • Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card's purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
  • Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. BBB encourages consumers to use gift cards as soon as possible. If the retailer or restaurant goes out of business before the card is redeemed, there will more than likely be no recourse for the card holder.