Now is the time to shop with unused gift cards — before it’s too late

10 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Chances are you have a few unused gift cards in your wallet. Now is the time to sort them, check balances and figure out if you can still use them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit businesses and restaurants hard. From giants such as J.C. Penney, Pier 1 and Sweet Tomatoes to small neighborhood cafes, many are restructuring or closing their doors.

That’s why retail experts say you should act fast to cash in on gift cards. If the business is still open, try to use your gift card as soon as possible.

Bryan Oglesby, of the Better Business Bureau, suggests calling the business to ask if the expiration date on your card has changed. In some cases, businesses are offering extensions.

You may even be able to use gift cards after the business has closed. Oglesby suggests contacting the company owners to see if they own sister businesses that may accept the gift cards.

In some cases, after a business has filed for bankruptcy, consumers wait for an option through bankruptcy court. A consumer could file with the court as a creditor.

Consumer experts warn to beware of scheme attempts. Fake websites have been launched to look like real business websites to trick you into giving over your private information.

Some are even sending emails about gift cards to get you to click on a bad link so they can steal your information. This is why it is important to do your homework before buying.

When all else fails, you may be able to get money back from your credit card company.

“So if you purchase a gift card with your credit card, there are no guarantees, but your credit card company may be able to reverse the charge when purchasing that gift card,” he said. “So it is important to reach out to these companies, reach out to the credit card companies and see what options you have as a consumer.”

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