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.
• 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).