Re­ports

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - To learn more, visit Con­sumerRe­ports.org.

ber -- so give the re­ceipt along with the card. But don’t ex­pect to get back any value stolen be­fore you re­port the loss. Scam­mers can also copy gift card codes while they’re still on a rack, then steal what­ever money a gift-giver loads onto the card. Be­fore you buy a gift card, in­spect its pro­tec­tive stick­ers or coat­ing for tam­per­ing.

• Con­sumer Re­ports’ ad­vice. Don’t give a mer­chant gift card un­less you’re cer­tain the in­tended re­cip­i­ent re­ally loves the store. Al­most $1 bil­lion in gift cards went un­spent in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the mar­ket re­search firm CEB.

Pre­paid Cards

• Pros. Pre­paid cards can be used wher­ever mer­chants ac­cept Amer­i­can Ex­press (3.4 mil­lion lo­ca­tions in the U.S.) or MasterCard and Visa (12 mil­lion). Make sure you give cards with low or no monthly fees or other user charges.

• Cons. You’ll usu­ally pay a few dol­lars for a pre­paid card at a store or on­line. And not all pre­paid cards are a good deal. Some have fees that can eat up the bal­ance.

• Se­cu­rity. Many is­suers of pre­paid cards vol­un­tar­ily of­fer the same con­sumer pro­tec­tions against fraud loss as bank debit cards by lim­it­ing your li­a­bil­ity to $50 if you re­port the unau­tho­rized use within two days of dis­cov­er­ing it. Pre­paid cards with the MasterCard and Visa brands go fur­ther by pro­vid­ing zero li­a­bil­ity. But to get those pro­tec­tions, you must reg­is­ter the card.

• Con­sumer Re­ports’ ad­vice. Three cards stood out in Con­sumer Re­ports’ ratings: Blue­bird by Amer­i­can Ex­press and Wal­Mart, Chase Liq­uid Visa and Green Dot Pre­paid Visa. They were highly rated for safety (in­sured by the FDIC), fee ac­ces­si­bil­ity and clar­ity. They also rated well for value (low fees).

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