The Gift Card Activation Scam

| Fri Aug. 13, 2010 11:46 AM EDT

I guess I lead a sheltered life or something, but I didn't know about this:

Los Angeles resident James Myers stopped by a Target store in Culver City recently to buy a $25 gift card. Easy, right?

Not so much, it turns out. Inspecting his receipt, Myers discovered that he'd been charged $29 for the transaction. He was told that the price included a $4 "activation fee."

....Target isn't the only gift-card provider to charge an activation fee. American Express, for example, charges up to $6.95. Visa gift cards can come with activation fees of up to $5.95.

That's from LA Times consumer columnist David Lazarus, who notes that not only is $4 outrageously high for swiping a piece of plastic and pressing a couple of keys, but "the company offering the gift card already benefits in other ways." Like, say, taking in money now and getting to keep it until the gift card is used. Or the fact that some gift cards get lost and never redeemed at all. But enough is never enough, is it?

By the way, in the same column Lazarus reports that Wells Fargo and Bank of America have no intention of changing their habit of reordering debit card transactions even though Wells was just fined $203 million for doing it. "Say this about big banks," Lazarus writes, "They're persistent."

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