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Fewer fees, more protection with gift cards this Christmas

gift cards

New rules passed in August by the FTC mean money put on gift cards cannot expire for at least five years. (December 16, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 This Morning at 6 o'clock / Friday, December 17, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Gift cards maybe a popular item to find under the tree this year, and this Christmas new rules and protections help keep the money on your card for longer.

Many shoppers forget they have a gift card to a specific store. That used to be money down the toilet if you never used it, until now.

They come in all shapes and colors. Different stores for different people. Mike Badke has a few on his list. "Today I'm buying about 15 gift cards." said Badke.

He buys them every year, but the way gift cards work has changed since last Christmas. "Normally I use them within 30 days." explained Badke.

Before the new rules kicked in this August gift cards could expire before you knew it. "I have one over three years old. And I just found it couple of days ago looking for something else," said Edna Bridge. "May have expired already."

Some companies charged an inactivity fee for not using it in time. But new protections passed by the Federal Trade Commission give gift cards a longer shelf life.

"It would be great if I could remember to use them . I'll go in the store and forget I have one in my pocket." said Bridge.

Under the new rules money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years, and those pesky hidden fees have to be marked on the package clearly.

"It's just easy instead of trying to find them something in the store, to just buy them a gift card to the store they like." said Badke.

Inactivity fees might be charged after a year but it'll be marked on the package, so read the fine print before you buy the card.

If you receive a gift card that you don't like, it doesn't have to go to waste. You can go to sites like or to swap your card for another, or sell it.

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