By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Americans are expected to ring up billions of dollars in gift card purchases this holiday season. But all gift cards aren’t created equal. So 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has advice so that gift card givers and recipients can get the most bang for the buck.

The gift card game has changed over the last few years. The Credit Card Act of 2009 extended many provisions regarding fees, terms and conditions to gift cards. But a new survey shows consumers still need to be aware of what they’re buying.

In the lead-up to the holiday shopping season, looked at 63 gift cards, 8 issued by banks and credit card companies, and 55 from retailers and restaurants.

General use gift cards were far more likely to have fees attached. Purchase fees ranged from $2.95 to $6.95. Inactivity fees could eat up $3 per month after the first year.

The trade off is more freedom. Janna Herron, a credit card analyst with says, “That’s the biggest advantage of one of the general purpose gift cards is the flexibility it gives to the person you give the gift card to. Store branded gift cards you have to use at the chain or the brand so that limits it, but there are fewer fees that come with those cards.”

Two-thirds of issuers said they would replace lost or stolen cards, though some require that you register the card or have a receipt. According to Herron, “Consumers should look on the back of their gift card to find out what they really need to do to protect themselves.” has a really great reference chart that you can use to compare gift cards and see which is best for you. It includes gift cards for retails stores, restaurants, you name it. To take a look, visit this link:

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