November 21, 2007
OCC Reminds Consumers to Read Gift Cards' Fine Print
WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reminds consumers to read the terms and conditions when you receive or purchase gift cards this holiday season.
Gift cards can have expiration dates, fees, and other terms that can reduce their value. Other terms may limit where cards can be used or explain handling complaints and lost or stolen cards.
Last year consumers lost $8 billion by not using the gift cards that they received or purchased. This year, 88 percent of Americans will buy two or more gift cards and, according to the National Retail Federation, the projected value of those cards will surpass $26 billion.
Consumers should know the following terms before purchasing a gift card and pass on that information to the recipient:
- Fees that apply, including those that apply after the sale and reduce the value of the card;
- Expiration date;
- Procedures to follow if a card is lost or stolen;
- Procedures to follow if there are problems with the card; and
- Where to use the gift card.
If these disclosures are not stated on the gift card or its packaging, check for a toll-free number or Web site.
For national banks that issue gift cards, the OCC has issued guidance about "stored value cards," such as gift cards. The guidance requires banks to clearly disclose the fees and terms associated with the gift card. The guidance also states that banks should avoid any marketing that misleads people about the terms, conditions, or limitations of the gift card.
If you have a complaint or problem involving a gift card issued by a national bank and have not been able to resolve the issue by contacting the bank directly, contact the OCC's Customer Assistance Group by calling (800) 613-6743 or by e-mailing email@example.com. For more about gift cards, visit www.HelpWithMyBank.gov.