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Gift Cards From Credit Card Companies Come With Complications

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(Image courtesy: American Express)

(Image courtesy: American Express)

BOSTON (CBS) – If you received a Visa, MasterCard or American Express gift card for the holidays, you may find it’s not that easy to use.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports

Shoppers are finding out that trying to exceed the amount on the card and intending to pay the rest by other means only complicates the system.

Let’s say you got a $50 gift card and want to use it to buy a $60 item.

You’re likely to get rejected, according to consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

“Because if you want to buy something more expensive, most systems can’t handle that directly. You as the customer have to tell the merchants, “I would like to do what’s called a ‘split tender’,” he told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

That means you tell the clerk from the outset that you’ll pay part of the purchase with the gift card and the rest with another card or cash.

“You will need to be able to say how much you want to charge that card, so you need to know what the balance of the card is. And if you’ve been using a card for awhile, it’s going to be an odd number. You may have $11.43 left on it,” Dworsky said.

“You have to remember the running balance on the card. You can either find that out online, there will be an internet address on the back of the card or there’ll be an 800 number. So, before you go to the store, check to see how much is left on the card, put a sticky note or something on there so you know, and that’s the amount you may have to tell the checkout person you want to charge on it.”

He also notes that ordering online may be even more complicated.

“Typically, you don’t see two separate fields – I’d like to charge x amount on this and then y amount on that.”

Cards from the retailers themselves can be easier, because the store keeps track of the balance.

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