Best gift card tips and tricks this holiday season

(CNN) - The gift card game has changed over the last few years.

The Card Act of 2009 extended many provisions regarding fees, terms and conditions to gift cards, but a new survey shows consumers still need to be aware of what they're buying.

In the lead-up to the holiday shopping season, Bankrate looked at 63 gift cards: Eight issued by banks and credit card companies, and 55 from retailers and restaurants.

General use gift cards were far more likely to have fees attached. Purchase fees ranged from $2.95 to $6.95. Inactivity fees could eat up $3 per month after the first year.

The trade off: more freedom.

"That's the biggest advantage of one of the general purpose gift cards is the flexibility it gives to the person you give the gift card to," explained Janna Herron, a credit card analyst with Bankrate.com. "Store-branded gift cards you have to use at the chain or the brand so that limits it, but there are fewer fees that come with those cards.

Two-thirds of issuers said they would replace lost or stolen cards, though some require that you register the card or have a receipt.

"Consumers should look on the back of their gift card to find out what they really need to do to protect themselves," Herron said.

Also, 95 percent of the cards surveyed did not have an expiration date.
 


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