Bankrate's study reveals the following data about different types of gift cards:
- There are two main types of gift cards: "Closed-loop," which can be used only at a single retailer or chain, and "open-loop," better known as one of the leading credit card brands;
- Closed-loop cards are the more forgiving of the two gift card types. Very few have fees attached to them and none of them expire;
- Open-loop cards are slightly more punitive. Six of the eight open-loop cards surveyed have expiration dates while two have a "Valid Thru" date – a date in which a card must be replaced if there is unspent money remaining;
- Gift card rules taking effect this past August as part of the Credit CARD Act ensure that all gift card funds must remain valid for five years since their last load. Another result of the CARD Act is that gift cards are required to communicate any expiration information explicitly on the gift card itself;
- Inactivity fees remain something to watch for, but not necessarily a prohibitive factor: Only one closed-loop card charged a fee after 24 months of nonuse, while five open-loop cards charge an inactivity or monthly fee after 12 months of nonuse.
Additionally, Bankrate's 2010 Gift Card Study features a chart highlighting all of the information about many top gift card choices, including which have expiration dates, fees, and even free shipping or delivery.
"Given that gift cards are more and more popular each year, odds are that most people will receive or give a gift card this holiday season," said Julie Bandy, editor-in-chief of Bankrate.com. "With the information in Bankrate's 2010 Gift Card Study, consumers can arm themselves with the resources they need to make the most out of their gift card choices."