From the Monmouth County Dept. of Consumer Affairs
FREEHOLD, NJ – Credit cards and gift certificates are the gift of choice for many people during the holiday season. If you will be purchasing a gift card or planning to redeem one, the Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs has some timely reminders to help you make the best use of your holiday dollars this season:
- Redeem your gift card or gift certificate as soon as possible. Gift cards and gift certificates are valid for at least five years after purchase, but after one year a retailer may charge an inactivity fee.
- Be sure to read the fine print before you purchase a gift card. Ask if there is an activation or shipping-and-handling fee. Also, some gift cards may not be used to purchase items online. It can make a big difference in how someone redeems your gift.
- If you are purchasing a gift card online, be wary of online auction sites. The cards may have been obtained fraudulently or may be counterfeit. Check each site’s terms and conditions. If you do not like what you read, buy elsewhere.
- If you find yourself with a gift card or gift certificate for a company or retailer that is no longer in business, remember that a new business owner is not obligated to honor the gift card you purchased from the previous owner. If you find yourself in this situation, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs for assistance.
If you place a deposit or started a layaway purchase on merchandise, make sure you know the specific terms of your deposit or layaway agreement. Some layaway programs charge a fee, so read your layaway agreement before signing it. Also, be cautious of any penalties that may result if you need to cancel your order or if you make a late payment.
When purchasing high-ticket items, be mindful of a vendor’s return policy. Ask if you will be charged a restocking fee if you return the item.
Additional information about consumer affairs programs can be found on the county Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com or by calling 732-431-7900. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.