What to Know About Buying and Redeeming (Unless They Are from Sharper Image) Gift Cards

Sharper Image has suspended acceptance of gift cards as it struggles through bankruptcy. I could write fifteen pages on how wrong and unjust I think this is. Suffice to say I’m thinking the same thing, in the same colorful verbiage, as you.

Why? Well, they need to raise cash to get out of bankruptcy, and in order to do that they need to take in cash. In the case of gift cards, the cash has already been “took in”. So the bankruptcy trustees nix them. Too bad, so sad.

They are saying that they will eventually start accepting them again, but who really knows…

Let us take this as a warning.

Here are a few other tips I’ve picked up as relates to gift cards:

1. Don’t buy gift cards from any company that seems to be struggling financially. Helloooooooo Sharper Image and Comp USA…

2. Check the terms and conditions before buying or as redeeming. My mother-in-law got us American Express Gift cards for Christmas a few years ago. She wanted us to use them to pay for a trip to visit them in North Carolina planned for New Year’s. My sister-in-law didn’t find out until she was on sitting at a gas station somewhere in rural north Florida that American Express Gift Cards cannot be used to pay for gas. It was a pickle.

3. Watch out for expiration dates. Some cards are only good for a certain amount of time, and some start charging non-usage fees if you don’t use them quickly enough. Bottom line? Redeem ones given to you as soon as possible. More than 20 states have passed regulations loosening restrictions on the use of gift cards.

4. Watch out for fee-for-purchase cards. I used to love giving and getting Simon Mall gift cards. You could shop any store in the mall, which really expanded the possibilities. I purchased them for local gift-giving regularly – until they started charging a fee to purchase the card. A $25 gift card cost $28. And that, my friends, was the end of that. American Express, Visa and Discover also charge fees. Beware!

5. Check your balance. Know your balance before you shop. No one wants to bring $100 worth of merchandise to the counter only to be reminded that you already used $65 to buy some rockin’ new shoes the month before. It’s embarrassing. Every card has a toll-free phone number and/or website where you can check y our balance, and sometimes register your card. It’s a good idea to register where available because if you lose the card they may send you a new one. Also, I write the balances on the front of each card with a Sharpie. Helps my old, feeble mind keep track.

6. Be careful with Rebate Gift Cards. We got some “free” new phones from AT&T, but we first had to pay for them and wait for the money to be rebated via Visa gift cards. What they don’t tell you is that they have to be redeemed pretty carefully. The cashier cannot just swipe the card like with a “normal” credit or gift card. They have to input the exact amount to be applied to the purchase (not to exceed the amount remaining on the card) and amount tender that. Not all cashiers know how to do this, so often a supervisor has to be called. The first time I used one, before I knew the trick, I had to pay another way because the cashier and I were both clueless. I’ll bet lots of people just get aggravated and let them languish in their wallets until they expire…

7. Just because the card is expired doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Call the corporate office and explain the situation. Often they will allow you to use the card anyway, or at least send you a nice coupon. It never hurts to ask…

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4 Responses to “What to Know About Buying and Redeeming (Unless They Are from Sharper Image) Gift Cards”

  1. JHS Says:

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life: St. Patrick’s Day Edition at Colloquium! The Carnival will be live at midnight (Pacific time) on March 17, 2008, so drop by and check out all of the wonderful submissions included this week! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!

  2. Carnival of Family Life: St. Patrick’s Day Edition | Colloquium Says:

    […] presents What to Know About Buying and Redeeming (Unless They Are from Sharper Image) Gift Cards published at Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know […]

  3. Monday Links - My Birthday Edition « Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know You? Says:

    […] of Family Life: St. Patrick’s Day Edition was hosted at Colloquium this week and included my post What to Know About Buying and Redeeming (Unless They Are from Sharper Image) Gift Cards. Paid Twice’s article One Way To Get Over the Bath and Body Works Habit at I’ve Paid For […]

  4. Linens-N-Things to Declare Bankruptcy, So Use That Gift Card Today! « Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know You? Says:

    […] written about gift cards and bankruptcy before, in my post What to Know About Buying and Redeeming (Unless They Are from Sharper Image) Gift Cards. I don’t want to end up with a useless card. Unfortunately, holding a gift card/certificate […]


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