Gift cards are getting personal

Gift cards are growing in popularity and experts say security is a top priority. A recent Bankrate survey found 72 percent of gift cards have some sort of loss or theft protection.

“They want to make sure that if they buy that card for a loved one that, that person’s actually gonna the benefit instead of it being taken away by, you know,  some criminals,” explained Claes Bell with Bankrate.

Since one in four people lose their gift cards, many cards now let you register them. That way you can notify the issuer if they are ever lost or stolen and with some you maybe able to recover the value. Another new security feature is cards which allow you to create a secret pin number.

“The biggest thing that we’ve seen is that some cards, general purpose cards mostly, have added the ability to add a customized pin to the card so that would prevent a thief from being able to use your card so they wouldn’t be able to make a debit purchase,” said Bell. “You see that on visa and mastercard branded cards.”

Also popular with more retail companies, are digital gift cards. Experts say those are harder for criminals to swipe and they are delivered straight to your inbox. It is also easier to prove that you made the purchase because there is a digital paper trail.

“You’re going to see a huge jump in sales of digital gift cards,” said Shelley Hunter with

If you worry a gift card sent via email seems too impersonal, more and more companies let you record audio and video messages which are sent with the e-gift card.

“So even though you’re not there to deliver the gift in person you can send your personality with it,” said Hunter.

Also new are apps that let you send digital gift cards. You can zap a present to someone else’s phone app, or send it via email.

“We’re used to using our phones to pay for things and gift cards is a natural progression of that,” Hunter said.

Bankrate found that now only 5 percent of cards charge dormancy fees, but your best bet is to register a gift card the moment you get it and to use it as soon as possible. If a retailer goes out of business you could risk losing the value of the card.

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