Shoppers with gift cards in hands: Read the fine print and spend wisely



Now that the stockings are unstuffed and packages ripped open, it's time to barrel back into the shopping mayhem to start in on returns, exchanges and gift card spending. Shoppers toting an estimated $23.6 billion in gift cards will return to stores this weekend to scoop up discounted holiday leftovers and new regular-price goods. But spending is expected to be smaller as the retail industry braces for its second consecutive holiday season of gift card declines.
For shoppers with gift cards in their hot hands, here are a few street-smart recommendations to get the shopping over with wisely:
• Dive in on a Tuesday because it's the slowest shopping day of the week. "All of the chaos that ensues over the weekend is cleaned up on Monday, and the shelves are restocked by then," said WalletPop's retail expert, Laura Heller.
• When it comes to gift cards, be wary of expiration dates, especially after activation, Heller said. That said, if you slip up and miss a redemption date, chances are retailers will make an exception. "They want you to be pleased and come back and create customer loyalty," Heller said.
• Since the economy is still rough, be aware of stores that might go belly up, said Chris Spagnuolo, a spokesman for Bankrate, Inc.
• A safe bet is an American Express or Visa gift card, which can be used anywhere. But these cards generally have a "valid through" date that's printed on the card.
"Your card won't work in stores after that date so you'll have to call the credit issuer and request a replacement in order to keep using it," Spagnuolo said.
• There are also fees. Credit issuer gift cards often charge monthly maintenance fees after a year of activity.
Read more: NY Daily News
knelson@nydailynews.com
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