Finance Consumer The big-name gift cards to avoid this Christmas
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The big-name gift cards to avoid this Christmas

gift card
A gift card could be more hassle than it's worth if you buy the wrong one. Photo: TND/Getty
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Shoppers are being warned to check the fine print when buying gift cards this Christmas.

Data from gift card company Blackhawk Network suggests 81 per cent of Australians plan to give their loved ones a gift card instead of a physical gift this Christmas.

But not every gift card is up to scratch, with some charging additional fees and others unable to be redeemed both online and in-store.

As a result, consumer comparison site RateCity has released a ‘naughty and nice’ list (listed below) to help consumers avoid getting ripped off.

Gift card qualities to watch out for

Following changes to Australian consumer law in 2019, all gift cards have a minimum three-year expiry period, and most have waived post-purchase fees that would otherwise reduce their value.

But RateCity research director Sally Tindall said it’s still important to double check a gift card’s expiry date and to look for hidden fees.

“Check for any hidden fees, particularly credit card fees, purchase fees, postage fees, things like that,” Ms Tindall said.

“And, if possible, look for fee-free alternatives so you don’t have to waste that extra money when buying a gift card.”

You can also tailor your choice of gift card to the intended recipient, she said.

“A few years back, I always thought that they were weren’t a very personable present because you’re essentially just handing over money,” she said.

“But with a variety of gift cards on the market and the ability to … really think about what you’re giving someone, it [has] really improved.

“Also think practically about this: If you’re giving someone a gift card for Christmas, then they’re likely to be able to use it in the Boxing Day sales and hopefully nab themselves a bargain with that gift card money.”

To maximise the benefits of the card, Ms Tindall said you should consider if the recipient will be able to easily redeem it.

For example, if the person you are buying the gift card for prefers online shopping, make sure the gift card can be used online, as supermarket giant Coles’ Gift Mastercard can only be used in store.

If you are buying someone a gift card for a particular cinema network, make sure there is one close to where the recipient lives.

“So it’s just having a look through the terms and conditions about how that person can redeem the gift card, and make sure it’s easy for them,” Ms Tindall said.

And if you receive a gift card, make sure to note its expiry date to ensure you redeem it in time.

Gift card tips and tricks

Ms Tindall said if you receive a gift card, it can be tempting to make an extra purchase to use up a few extra dollars left on the card.

But she said you should instead think about how you can use that money wisely.

“There’s no point going around the store and buying something you don’t need for $50 just to claim a couple of extra spare dollars on your gift card,” she said.

She said you could consider giving the leftover amount to someone in the queue at the store who is able to make good use of it.

You could also try your luck at getting the store to redeem what’s left of the card’s value for cash.

Ms Tindall said this practice is rare, but stores like Bunnings offer cash change for gift cards below $9.95.

And if you’ve held on to your gift card for too long and it has passed its expiry date, you should still take it into a store to see if they’re willing to redeem it.

“The worst they can say is ‘no’ and the best they can say is ‘yes’,” she said.