Money Talks: Gift Cards 2010

Gift cards used to be available only at certain times of the year and only at the sponsoring retailer. These days, you can find them all year round at the local grocery store. It doesn't get more convenient than that.

And thanks to the CARD act, gift cards have now gotten more consumer friendly. One example? Now they can't expire for at least 5 years: this one here has no expiration date at all.

Here's another gimme: Replacement cards. If your gift card expires with unspent money on it, you can now get a replacement card free.

Another change: Fees. The new law prohibits inactivity or service fees for twelve months and the issuer has to clearly disclose all fees on the packaging.

And speaking of dormancy fees: according to consumer reports, nearly one in four people who received a gift card last year forget to use it. So take it out of the drawer, use it now, maybe buy someone else a gift before the inactivity fee starts.

The new rules make gift cards better, but they're not perfect. If a merchant goes belly-up, the card does too - so get cards only from big merchants.

And here's one last thing to keep in mind. Although gift cards are certainly popular to give - 62% of us plan one giving at least one this year - they're not all that popular to receive. According to Consumer reports, only 13% of people put these in their "must have" category. Want to see a website that sells gift cards for less than face value? I've got one waiting for you at Money Talks