Consumers losing out as shops profit from gift cards

Queensland shoppers are losing money as retailers cash in on extra charges and unused gift cards.

Gift cards often seem like a great time saver, but they can end up being a big wallet waster. Incredibly, 30% of us never actually use our gift cards, which means a whopping $200 million is thrown away every year.

While in New South Wales, a 3-year expiry period is mandatory on all gift cards. Here in Queensland, that’s not yet the case.

“I reckon you should get your money back off them,” a member of the public told 9NEWS.

But while retailers are cashing in on what they often call the best gift of all, longer expiry dates perhaps shouldn’t be at the top of our wish list.

“Really what you’re doing is buying onerous terms and conditions from call centres,” Tom Godfrey from consumer group Choice.

If you ask a question about your gift card, you may have to pay for it. Some shops are now charging fees to check balances as well as a fee for the card itself.

An Australia Post visa prepaid gift card not only costs $5.95, but if you call customer service for a balance check, you’ll get stung $4.

Woolworths has just scrapped its Visa prepaid gift cards – and no wonder. There is a $5.50 purchase fee, and a $4 call centre balance check fee.

Meanwhile, a Coles prepaid gift card costs $5. If you ring the call centre to check your transactions, you’ll be hit with a  $4 fee.

“These gift card operators are in a fee frenzy,” Godfrey said.

Bunnings, however, is leading the way with its gift cards, No purchase fee and there’s no expiry date. Plus, when the balance is under $10, Bunnings will let you cash it out.

“Be really careful. Look for those limited expiry periods and look for any dodgy fees and charges,” Godfrey said.

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