If you’ve been reading this blog for long, one thing you’ve probably noticed is that I don’t like gift cards. Ever. Almost. I love gift cards to Joann fabrics, but that’s because I’m a crafter and will always use them. And I love Amazon gift cards because there’s so much you can buy.
But, for the most part I believe in giving cash in red envelopes or other pretty ways instead. I could cite the billions of dollars wasted in unused gift cards. I could talk about limiting your recipient to just one store or the limitations of redeeming some gift cards. I have.
But today I’m putting out another reason not to use gift cards. A few weeks ago, The Consumerist reported the story of a woman who was briefly taken to jail for trying to pay with legitimate Amex gift cards.
These cards were a Christmas present. The relative had even been thoughtful enough to give her something she could use at a number of stores. But because of a glitch and then a glitch on Amex’s end, the woman was handcuffed, taken to a police station, patted down (including under her shirt), and briefly held before Amex changed its answer and verified that the cards were legitimate.
The woman reported that as she left the station another young man was being brought in for the same issue only with MasterCard gift cards.
One lesson we could draw from the story is “don’t shop at this Best Buy because they will screw up your gift cards & call the police.” But when Best Buy did its part and called Amex the first time, it was told that there was a problem and confirmed in its decision to call the police. It wasn’t Best Buy who actually sent the woman to jail, it was an Amex representative. If another Amex representative hadn’t cleared things up quickly, she might’ve stayed longer.
Sometimes not dealing in cash makes sense, like putting your money in the bank. Keeping all of it in cash can be tragic. You want to earn interest. And debit/credit/checks allow you to purchase things quickly without bothering with bills. But why tie up gift money in a gift card, a gift cheque, etc? The reasons not to just keep piling up.