The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend almost $28 billion on gift cards for the 2017 holiday season. That means there’s a pretty good chance you or I will get one this year (or purchase one.) But, a recent study found many popular gift cards don’t offer any protection from theft.
ValuePenguin, a personal finance website, found 45 percent of popular gift cards in the U.S. don’t offer theft or loss protection. This means if you lose your card or a hacker taps into the card online, there’s no way to get your money back on the card from the retailer.
The website reviewed the terms and conditions for 62 gift cards from some of the top retailers in America. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Ikea, Michael Kors, Walmart, and PetSmart have zero loss protection on their gift cards, something the experts at ValuePenguin consider to be a must-have.
“You can then go back to the issuing company and get that refunded. That’s probably the most important thing,” explained Paul Reynolds, Chief Content Editor with valuepenguin.com.
In addition, stores like Whole Foods, Coach, REI and eBay don’t offer balance protection.
Reynolds explained balance protection, “Prevents online fraudsters from going into a whole bunch of cards, finding out which ones have balances and then stealing or selling those balances.”
Basically, balance protection keeps your card secure when using it online, by making the user enter a password, log-in or a CAPTCHA in order to use the card.
Why would major retailers like Walmart and eBay fail to offer these types of protections to consumers?
“An additional burden for the companies,” said Reynolds, who added offering these protection comes with a cost to companies.
A little of 37 percent of the cards ValuePenguin studied, offered loss protection and security features. These included Gap, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sears, and TJ Maxx.
So, what if you want to buy a gift card for yourself or someone else, but the store doesn’t offer protections? Reynolds suggests trying an open loop card.
“Which is a Visa card, an AMEX gift card or whatever. Those have a lot more protections.”
Also, Reynolds said, the burden of proof falls on the consumer if they lose the card or it’s hacked, even if a retailer offers protections. He suggested keeping all receipts (including the proof of purchase receipt) just in case.
To view ValuePenguin's full results, just click here.