Sunday, November 21, 2010

Virtual Gift Cards

From TMJ-4, Milwaukee.

"Do all your holiday shopping without ever leaving home! Virtual gift cards are the hot new convenience gift this season."


"Duffy logs on to the growing number of stores offering online gift cards, picks the amount she'd like to spend, enters her credit card info, the recipients name and email address-and her shopping is done.

"Buying a virtual gift card is super easy to do," she explained.

The virtual gift cards can be spent online immediately. Some businesses let you print it out and spend it at the store. And other retailers let you save the gift card info to your phone, and then scan in the code from the screen on your mobile."


"But there are some pitfalls to online gift giving. Duffy actually received one once, thought it was spam and deleted it. She and her gift giver had to battle with the retailer to get it reissued. Spam filters can be a real virtual gift card grinch, said Gail Hillebrand, who is with Consumers Union.

"If the email doesn't arrive it's like---the gift doesn't arrive," she explained.

Hillebrand suggested giving your recipient a heads up you sent them an online gift card, so it doesn't become virtual junk mail. Some other info to keep in mind:

*Cyber gift cards are regulated just like plastic gift cards under federal law.

*A virtual gift card can't expire for five years.

*You can't be charged dormancy fees as long as you use it once every 12 months.

But it's wise to use your online gift card fast because if the store goes out of business, you could be out of luck.

Always read these little terms and conditions before you buy the virtual gift card to see what the specific rules are."


"If you ever lose your virtual gift card code or print out, call the retailer immediately. It may be able to re-issue you a new one with the amount of value remaining on it at the time you report it."

The only downfalls I can see right now are:

1. Your e-mail account is hackable (both at work and at home).

2. The e-card could end up in your trash or spam folders, and get deleted along with the bathwater.

3. What if you send it to the wrong e-address?

4. What if the email received is fraudulent spam to begin with, and you clicked on it, inviting trojans, malware, or other nasties into your account and your computer? As it is, supposed emails from "banks" are still going around, and banks don't notify anyone by email.

Sometimes it's easier and more secure just to spend cash. For others, send a cashier's check--you can always stop payment on it if it isn't received in a timely manner. Better yet, do the shopping AFTER the holidays--there is no law written in stone that says you HAVE to give gifts on December 25th. In fact, Italy doesn't do this--they have the big dinner on the 25th, and give gifts January 6th (12th Night, or the 12th night after Christmas).

Remember, the Three Wise Men attended what was a rustic baby shower--of COURSE they brought gifts! Had the birth "happened" (in dispute) on any other night, the shower would still have gone on, and we'd all probably be giving each other bags of diapers and baby clothes. Look where we've gone...from a simple baby shower to discounted electronics to virtual gift cards!


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