New incentives for gift card lovers

By: Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you're thinking about buying a gift card as a present, now is the time.

New rules that took effect Sunday make the cards more customer friendly.

The new regulations are part of federal credit card legislation.

Ann Browne thinks gift cards make great presents, but receiving one hasn't always worked out well.

Take this past week for example:

"I tore my house apart looking for the gift card my mother had given me for Christmas," she said.

All she could find is the instruction packet saying if the card wasn't used by this past July, just about seven months after it was purchased, a fee would be charged.

Now, card companies have to follow certain requirements when assessing those fees.

They can only do so, if there's been at least one year of inactivity.

No more than one such fee is charged per month and the consumer is given notice about those costs.

The other big news, the rule mandates expiration dates must be expanded to five years.

Bob Broomfield is the president of the Carytown Merchants' Association.

At his store gift cards never expire.

"This gives the buyer more options over a longer period of time," he said.

Broomfield says the new regulations couldn't come at a better time.

Right now, the Carytown Merchants Association is considering a card that would cover the 300 retailers in the area.

The logistics though are still in the works.

"Because we're not a mall or a shopping center, we're all individual businesses, each one having their own point of sale, there's always the how are they accounted for, how do we get the cards out to people, where do they purchase them," Broomfield said.

They'll continue to discuss the details.

Just to get these reactions from customers like Stacy Chizuk.

"I think it would bring me down here more often," she said.

The new federal rules apply to store cards along with Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover branded gift cards.

The Carytown Merchants' Association is hoping to have its card ready for the pre-holiday shopping season.

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