FREEHOLD, NJ – Gift cards and gift certificates are the gift of choice for many people during the holiday season. If you will be purchasing a gift card or planning to redeem one, the Monmouth County Division of Consumer Affairs has some timely reminders to help you make the best use of your holiday dollars this season:

  • Redeem your gift card or gift certificate as soon as possible. Gift cards and gift certificates are valid for at least two years after purchase, but after two years a retailer may charge an inactivity fee.
  • Save your receipts when you use your gift card to keep track of how much you spent. This will also help prove how much you still have available on your gift card.
  • Be sure to read the fine print before you purchase a gift card. Ask if there is an activation or shipping-and-handling fee. Also, some gift cards may not be used to purchase items online. It can make a big difference in how someone redeems your gift.
  • If you are purchasing a gift card online, be wary of online auction sites. The cards may have been obtained fraudulently or may be counterfeit. Check each site’s terms and conditions. If you do not like what you read, buy elsewhere.
  • If you find yourself with a gift card or gift certificate for a company or retailer that is no longer in business, remember that a new business owner is not obligated to honor the gift card you purchased from the previous owner. If you find yourself in this situation, contact the Monmouth County Division of Consumer Affairs for assistance.

“Many consumers contact us to say a favorite restaurant or nail salon is under new ownership, and they can’t use their gift certificate,” said Annmarie Howley, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Or, they may find that the furniture store where they recently placed an order is now empty. The Consumer Affairs staff may be able to provide assistance and help consumers resolve all sorts of consumer-related issues.”

The Consumer Affairs Division is a law enforcement agency, created and funded by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. It protects against consumer fraud and dishonest and unscrupulous business practices by enforcing the state Consumer Fraud Act and other regulations.

“Beyond the winter holidays, the Consumer Affairs staff is available to assist consumers who believe they may have been a victim of fraud or unfair business practices,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the Division. “This is one of the many important ways the County is able to assist residents.”

Consumer Affairs will help consumers resolve all types of consumer-related issues. Information about rescission, fraud and other consumer affairs programs can be found on the County website at www.VisitMonmouth.com, by calling 732-431-7900 or email consumeraffairs@co.monmouth.nj.us. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.