Posted: December 11, 2009
I spent about an hour this week cleaning out a dresser drawer that I have not visited for quite a while. In fact, I found all kinds of momentos that must have been important to me at one time. I apparently felt the need to save admission tickets from professional sporting events, inexpensive coins from foreign countries and a number of free drink tickets to area taverns and nightclubs that have long since changed ownership. I also found some unused gift cards.
Personally, I never liked to buy a gift card as a birthday, wedding or Christmas present. I thought it was too impersonal. I also know that, many times, I spend more at the store where the gift card was purchased from or, mistakenly end up having a balance left on the gift card that I don't think about using until months later. Plus, since I love shopping, I relish the opportunity to buy a gift for a friend or relative that I know they will use and appreciate. I also don't like to buy gifts that will expire their use within a short period of time (i.e. food, cheese trays, gas, etc.)
My biggest problem with gift cards is that I found some department store cards that I misplaced or did not use have lost value because I did not use them within the first year of receipt. That is why I am pleased to learn that the Federal Reserve recently adopted rules to protect consumers from unexpected costs or restrictions on gift cards.
Under the plan, consumers will be able to use the card for up to five years before they expire. In addition, the Fed also issued an order to have service or inactivity fees imposed only under certain circumstances, such as if the consumer has not utilized the card within the last year. The rules are to take effect Aug. 22, 2010.
As a result, I may be buying more gift cards, especially since I am purchasing gifts for a few teenagers this year. Although I still enjoy buying a present that someone can touch and feel, I have a better feeling about purchasing a piece of plastic so long as I know that it can be used for more than just 12 months without losing some of its value. I also know that, in the future, any newer gift cards that I find in a dresser drawer will likely have more value than those old drink tickets.
REMINDER: Next week (Dec. 18, 2009) will be the last issue of The Bottom Line for the calendar year. As always, Ropa Publishing Company does not publish the weekly newsletter during the two weeks around Christmas and New Year's Day.