January 7, 2013 at 3:37 PM CST - Updated August 29 at 10:18 AM
If you received gift cards for Christmas, the Better Business Bureau suggests to be smart about how you use them:
You need to read the card and be familiar with any terms and conditions. Check for expiration dates and fees. Money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased.
If it appears that the value of your card has expired, or that fees have been deducted, contact the company that issued the card. Inactivity fees can only be deducted after one year.
Terms and conditions must be clearly disclosed on the packaging or card itself.
Use your card as soon as you can. It's not unusual to misplace gift cards or forget you have them; using them early will help you get the full value. Not to mention if the place closes you will not be entitled to money back.
Treat your card like cash. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. You may not recover any of the value that was on the card. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, but other issuers will, for a fee. You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers you can call to report a lost or stolen card.