What you need to know about gift cards

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gift cards are one of the most popular presents to give and receive, but there are some things to keep in mind before and after you buy them.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says you should treat a gift card just like cash — not a coupon or a discount.

If you lose it, in most cases, it is gone.

In New York, the issuer cannot hit you with service charges or maintenance fees for two years. It expires in five years, unless the card specifically gives you more time.

Thieves have been known to copy the serial numbers from cards, and as you buy it, they will use that number to drain the value.

Consumer advocates advise you to check for tampering.

“So when you are shopping for that gift card at the store, make sure the packaging is not tampered with, that the code on the back — there is a scratch off on the back for a code — that that is not messed with either,” Melanie McGovern, with the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, said. “Because if you buy that gift card and you put a certain amount of money on there, somebody might already have that number and is getting that money that you were intending to give to somebody else.”

For some people, that hassle isn’t worth it. A national survey shows about 40 percent of the people questioned said they don’t want a gift card as a present.

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