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Gift Cards: Know What You're Giving

LITTLE ROCK - With the holiday shopping season approaching, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to read the fine print when it comes to gift cards.

"Gift cards make great presents, but if you plan to buy some this holiday season, you should know that many stores and companies attach restrictions to them," said McDaniel. "Consumers should take an extra few minutes at the store to make sure they are getting what they pay for."

Each year Americans spend about $65 billion in gift cards -- excluding bank-issued prepaid cards -- but don't redeem $6.8 billion, according to research by TowerGroup, a financial-consulting firm. Arkansans wishing to avoid such losses this year should study up on the 2007 state law concerning card restrictions. Specifically, the law dictates:

If the card has an expiration date, it cannot be within the first two years of issuance;
Fees cannot be imposed on the card during this two year period; and
Any fees or an expiration date must be denoted on the actual gift card.

While this law applies to retail store gift cards, it does not apply to all bank-issued gift cards. Some bank gift cards are governed by federal banking regulators and are subject to an independent, albeit less stringent, set of rules. If you plan to give a bank-issued gift card, inquire about those rules when you purchase it, and be sure to pass that information on to the recipient of the gift.

Consumers who have questions about the laws governing gift cards in Arkansas can contact the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General's Office by logging onto www.ArkansasAG.gov or calling 1-800-482-8982.

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