Worst 5 Retail Gift Card Rules and Fees People Hate to Give or Get


Last-minute desperate gift card purchasers are the last people who would take the time to read the fine print gift card terms and conditions that they hurriedly agree to with the purchase of a retail gift card. But all retail gift card gifters need to beware of the fine print gift card rules, fees, terms and conditions that make some retail cards "the worst" last-minute gifting alternative.  ​

Does It Really Matter That You Know Every Rule Associated With a Random Retail Credit Card?  

It never matters until it matters. And when it matters is when you're informed that you violated one of those fine print terms that you didn't know existed, even though you agreed to abide by them all. 

Ever since the Great Recession when millions of gift card holders got stiffed on their gifts by bankrupt retailers, the government and other regulatory bodies have had plenty of mandated can't do's and must do's concerning retail gift cards.  

For instance, in some states the laws require that gift cards be redeemed for cash upon a customer's request when the balance on the card is below a certain value. The states with gift card cash redemption requirements, and the value for cash redemption in those states are:

  • California($10.00)
  • Colorado($5.00)
  • Maine($5.00)
  • Massachusetts($5.00)
  • Missouri($5.00)
  • New Jersey($5.00)
  • Oregon($5.00)
  • Rhode Island($1.00)
  • Vermont($1.00)
  • Washington($5.00)

Despite mandated rules and regulated fees, some of the largest U.S. retail chains that sell and redeem gift cards have still found a way to make their gift card terms and conditions "the worst" for the gift card recipients, which makes the gift card giver "the worst" by association. 

Regulations Make Any Gift Card Purchased in Grocery Stores The Worst

Regulations enacted in October 2015 have made those massive retail and restaurant gift card displays at grocery stores and supermarkets some of the "worst" gift card options for both gift card givers and receivers. 

Specifically, we're talking about the EMV Liability Shift.

What Is the EMV Liability Shift, You Might Be Wondering?

Simply stated, that "liability shift" is a new set of rules enacted by big credit card processors like VISA and American Express which now makes merchants that accept credit card payments liable for any fraudulent transactions that are processed without EMV chip technology at their payment processing terminals. 

What Do EMV Transactions Have to Do With Gift Cards?  

If a gift card is purchased with a credit card and the credit card transaction is not processed with EMV technology, then the grocery merchant that sold the credit card is 100% liable for the full amount of the gift card. That means if a gift card is purchased from a grocery store with a fraudulent credit card, and the gift card is gifted, the grocery store will get a chargeback from the bank for the full value of the fraudulent transaction.  

Not all of the largest U.S. grocery retailers have EMV chip technology and don't want to be liable for fraudulent gift card transactions, which are growing in numbers. So, as a result of this liability shift, many grocery retailers are now requiring that gift cards be purchased for cash.

Why Does Any of This Matter to the Gift Card Recipient?​

Almost all merchants in the U.S. retail industry have a rule that gift cards that were purchased for cash will not be replaced if they are lost or stolen. This "no replacement" rule applies even if the gift card user has a receipt and even if the gift card user has the unique gift card number. No replacements, no matter what with cash transactions.  

So...  you can't purchase gift cards unless you pay cash, and you can't get the gift card replaced if it was purchased for cash. What's good for the grocery merchant is not so good for the grocery store gift card recipient.

Ultra Controlling eBay Gift Card Rules Make It the Worst of the Worst

If you are the (un)lucky recipient of an eBay gift card, you can look forward to a hassle-filled redemption process governed by the kind of ultra-controlling rules for which eBay has become (in)famous.

  • The maximum value of an eBay gift card is $200 and the total amount of gift card credit that can be redeemed in a single purchase is $1000. Why? Because we said so.
  • In order to use the eBay gift card, the recipient must have both an eBay account and a PayPal account.  A PayPal account requires that the recipient to either have a credit card or be willing to provide PayPal with complete access to a bank checking account.  
  • Both your eBay account and shipping address must be in the U.S. or else you cannot use the gift card.
  • If the eBay gift card is used at all, it is locked into the eBay and PayPal accounts forever. That means that the eBay gift card is completely non-transferable and cannot be sold on any gift card resale marketplace.
  • You can't purchase another gift card if you want to pay for any portion of your purchase with a gift card. In other words, you will have to remove any gift cards from your shopping cart before you'll be able to complete a payment using a gift card.  

As with all eBay customer unfriendly hassle-filled policies, eBay hides behind "security" as the reason. In general, the eBay gift card is the worst of the "worst" retail gift card options because it's one more example of how eBay chooses to impose rules on the many because of the sins of the few.

Ross Dress For Less Gift Cards Disposable Due to Worst Technology

Similar to H&M, the Ross Dress for Less gift card offering lacks the technological support necessary to make it user-friendly to the average omnichannel customer. This is not really surprising because Ross is just about the only chain in the U.S. retail industry to not have an Internet ecommerce website.  

If you do give or receive a Ross gift card, you will probably find the Ross gift card rules and policies to be "the worst": 

  • There are no egift cards or mobile gift cards available for Ross stores. You will be charged postage if you order a physical gift card online and have it mailed to you or your gift recipient.
  • There are no replacements if you lose your Ross Dress for Less Gift Card, even if you have your original receipt.   
  • You can't check the balance of your gift card online.
  • You can't use your gift card for online purchases since gifts cards are the only things you can purchase on the RossStores.com website.
  • The gift card can only be used for the original amount purchased. There is no reloading or ongoing functionality possible with this gift card.
  • If you want to personalize/customize the gift card you purchase online or send it with a greeting card, the cost is $4.95 plus shipping.
  • If you create a customized gift card and the Ross employee ringing up the transaction feels that the words or image on the gift card are "objectionable," they can refuse to redeem the gift card. If you "publicize" the "objectionable" customized gift card, it can be invalidated and you can be sued.
  • Customized gift card sales are final and no refunds will be allowed.

Lack of Online and In-store Integration for H&M Gift Cards Is Worst

Even though H&M is one of the largest retail chains in Sweden and is taking global retail markets by storm, it seems to be lagging far behind the largest U.S. retail chains with its gift card offer. To H&M's tech-savvy millennial customer base, the lack of seamless integration between online and in-store gift card functions are "the worst."

Much like Ross Stores, H&M lacks the technical infrastructure to provide U.S. gift card users the kind of gift card experience they have come to expect  Unlike Ross Stores, though, H&M does have an Internet shopping website. So it's difficult to understand why a digital gift card hasn't been one of H&M's techno to-do's.

Some of the "worst" features of H&M gift cards are:

  • You can only purchase physical plastic gift cards, and there are no online or mobile egift card options. Physical gift cards cannot be used for online purchases.
  • Gift cards can be canceled before they are shipped, but not after they are shipped, even if they are never used.
  • You can't reload your gift card unless it still has a balance on it.  And you can't reload gift cards online or on your mobile phone. You can only reload the card inside an H&M store at the cash register.
  • If your card balance is $0.00, you'll have go to an H&M store and purchase a brand new gift card.  

Worst Walmart Gift Card Fees Won't Let You Save Money or Live Better

From the retail company that's all about "saving money and living better," Walmart has the "worst" fees associated with its gift cards of any major U.S. retail chain. These "worst" Walmart gift card fees and "worst" policies include: 

  • A $5 fee will be charged to replace a lost or stolen card.
  • If the gift card is not used 12 months after purchase, a service fee of $.094 will be deducted from the balance each month. A fee of $0.50 will be deducted from your gift card balance every time you talk to a live Wal-Mart employee on the phone about your gift card. 
  • You will be charged $5.00 to liquidate a Wal-Mart gift card
  • If your card does not have a PIN, you can use it only in a Walmart store or Sam's Club.
  • Without a PIN you cannot check the balance of a Walmart Gift Card, but you can trade it in for a new card with a PIN at any local Walmart store or Sam's Club in the United States
  • Walmart gift cards and egift cards can be used at Walmart stores, on Walmart.com, at Walmart and Sam's Club gas stations, in Sam's Club Stores, at Samsclub.com and on Vudu.com  If the gift card user is not a Sam's Club member, a 10% surcharge will be added to all purchases. In order to use the gift card on Vudu.com, the gift card user will have to open a Vudu account. Only physical plastic gift cards can be used at gas stations
  • Wal-Mart gift cards have no cash value and are not returnable or refundable except where state law requires it.
  • If the Walmart gift cards are purchased in a bulk order of 25 cards or more, or if the total value of the purchaser's gift card order is more than $250, the purchaser will have to activate each of the gift cards before gifting them or else they will not be able to be used by the gift card recipient.