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The best and worst gift cards

Why some gift cards are just annoying. Here's some tips on finding the best and avoiding the worst gift cards at Christmas.

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Gift cards are popular this time of year but they can also be just really annoying.

Sure, they’re easy to post and can be sold just about anywhere but the problem is forgetting to use them, and before you know it, another one bites the expiry dust!

On the flipside, there’s nothing better than finding you have one tucked away in your purse when your money has nearly run out. That is of course if it’s still valid…doh!

Seems I’m not alone with my experience of short-term gift card memory loss or handbag eating gift card syndrome.

Research by comparison website RateCity shows the most common expiry date for a gift card is only 12 months.

The ones that always seem to trip me up are those with as little as three months to purchase your present. And don’t even mention those charity gift cards, they always seem to get bought, but never spent.

To help you out, here’s some top picks if you are considering gift cards this Christmas, plus all the ones you need to be wary of when it comes to timeframes and a bit of short term memory loss.

RateCity top picks 
Bunnings Unlimited expiry If balance falls below $9.95 Bunnings will give you change in cash.
Apple Unlimited expiry
Netflix Unlimited expiry Requires new or existing Netflix account.
JB Hi-Fi Unlimited expiry Will honour expired gift cards.
The Good Guys Unlimited expiry Will honour expired gift cards.
IKEA 36 Can be used in 23 countries.

Beware of the fine print 

Youfoodz 3 Short expiry period.
Some independent beauty salons 3 Short expiry period.
Ella Bache 6 Short expiry period.
Endota Spa 12 Charges you $10 delivery fee for the card.
Westfield 12 Some retailers may choose not to accept the gift card.
Sportsgirl 12 Gift cards cannot be used online.
Ella Rouge 12 50% of value will be deducted for cancellations within 24 hours notice.
Bing Lee Unlimited expiry The gift card must be used in one transaction.
Australia Post Visa Card 24 $5.95 purchase fee (up to 10% of card value). $4 fee for balance enquiry by phone.
Myer 24 Charges you $4.95 delivery fee for the card.

RateCity money editor Sally Tindall said even though gift cards are one of the most convenient presents to buy, shoppers should always read the fine print.

“Gift cards are meant to operate just like cash, but in reality they come with pages of terms and conditions that often work in the retailers’ favour.

“Short expiry dates are the biggest offender, but shoppers also get caught out with postage and activation fees and conditions on where and how the money is spent.

“The other way shoppers end up forfeiting their cash, is by only spending part of the value of the gift card. Often the balance left behind is never spent, and when the card expiries, retailers keep the difference.

“While a couple of dollars here and there doesn’t sound like much, collectively, Australians spent $2.5 billion every year on gift cards. The Commonwealth Consumers Affairs Advisory Council estimated that up to 8 per cent of cards are never used, which equates to up to $200 million in ‘e-change’ that is lost by Australian consumers each year.

“It is also concerning some retailers are charging up to $10 to purchase a gift card and send it in the mail.  Not all retailers do this, so shop around, and make sure you are getting a good deal.

“We were pleased to hear the NSW government has finally stepped in, forcing retailers to put a three-year minimum on gift card expiry dates.Although, there is no firm date for the new law to be implemented, this is certainly a move in the right direction.

Now the pressure is on other states to follow suit.

Getting the most out of your gift card 

  • Make sure you check your expiry dates carefully. If your gift card doesn’t clearly state when the offer runs out, contact the retailer and ask them to write it on the card or keep a copy of the purchase receipt.
  • Before purchasing your gift card check the fine print for any fees attached to mailing out or activating the card.
  • Treat your gift card like cash, if it is lost or stolen, retailers will not honour the card.
  • Shoppers should also make sure they understand what happens to their gift card if the retailer goes bankrupt. In many cases, gift cards are unusable if a company becomes insolvent. The collapse of electronics giant Dick Smith highlighted this issue back in 2016.
  • Make sure you spend the full amount on the gift card before the expiry date. It’s very easy to make one purchase and forget you have a small balance left over on your card.  If this is you, it’s worth asking the retailer to transfer the remaining funds to a new gift card.  Although, there is no legal requirement for retailers to help you, some are happy to play ball, as a show of good customer service.
Youfoodz 6
Waxworks 3
Ella Bache 6
Jaggard 12
Westfield 12
Country Road 12
Dan Murphys 12
Hoyts 12
Booktopia 12
Ticketmaster 12
Flight Centre 12
Barbeques Galore 12
Peter Alexander 12
Qantas 12
Virgin Australia 12
Woolworths wish 12
Woolworths essentials grocery 12
Kidstuff 12
Mac 12
Merivale 12
Sportsgirl 12
Ella Rouge 12
Endota Spa 12
Best Spas 12
Hair Body and Soul 12
Good Food 12
Bed Bath n’ Table 12 12
Lowes 12
Bonds 12
Rebel Sport 12
Speedo 12
T2 12
Bra n’ Things 12
Adrenaline experiences 18
Myer 24
David Jones 24
Kmart 24
Coles Giftcard 24
Asos 24
Cue 36
H&M 36
Ikea 36
Apple Unlimited expiry
Bing Lee Unlimited expiry
Netflix Unlimited expiry
Bunnings Unlimited expiry
JB Hi-Fi Unlimited expiry
Good Guys Unlimited expiry
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