Watch out for fees on gift card purchases

Once again, this year the most wished for gift is a gift card. Expiration dates used to be a big problem with gift cards. Not anymore.

Retail gift cards sold in Washington State can never expire. General purpose gift cards, those sold by banks and credit card companies, must be good for at least five years from the date of purchase.

Fees are now the big "gotcha." surveyed dozens of popular cards and found that all of the general-purpose cards had a purchase fee. Only nine percent of the store-branded cards did.

"To get the most value you want to go with a store-branded gift card. Most of those don't charge a purchase fee," said Janna Herron, a credit card analyst at Bankrate. "The general-purpose gift cards, the ones that have a Visa, MasterCard or American Express logo on them, do charge an extra $3 to $6 when you purchase the gift cards."

Most bank-issued gift cards also charge what they call a maintenance or inactivity fee - as much as $3 a month - if the card is not used for 12 months or more.

For more information

Gift cards popular, but beware of fees on some