US consumer advocates warn of gift card costs

WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Most consumers do not know that it costs $4 to $7 to buy a general purpose gift card or that they may be subject to monthly fees of up to $4.95 as soon as six months after the card is purchased, consumer advocates said on Monday.

Just 33 percent of consumers knew the fees involved in purchasing general purchase gift cards while just 54 percent knew that that monthly fees sometimes kicked in six to 12 months after their purchase, according to a survey done for the Consumer Federation of America and National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators.

Of those who had received a gift card, 17 percent said they sometimes had trouble spending the entire amount of the card because a store refused to split a payment between the card and another payment method, the group said.

“An estimated 10 percent of this value (the card’s original value) is never used, and another percentage is lost through monthly fees assessed,” the groups said in a statement.

Most general purpose gift cards are issued by Visa V.N, MasterCard MA.N and American Express AXP.N, the groups said. American Express announced last month that it was dropping monthly charges on the cards. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)