Better open-loop gift cards

Even though vendors have until January to comply with the new packaging requirements for open-loop gift cards, they are required to follow some of the new rules, like no expiration before 5 years and no fees until after 12 month starting August 22nd.  And like clockwork, the announcements for new and friendlier open-loop gift cards are starting to roll out, like this one from Wells Fargo/Wachovia.

Wells Fargo and Wachovia gift cards now will be valid for 7 years, 2 more than required by law.  They also carry a relatively low $3.95 purchasing fee and can be bought in denominations of up to $500 for Wells Fargo cards and $600 for Wachovia cards.  Like Amex, they have completely done away with the monthly fees, and if the expiration date on the card rolls by before 7 years, you can get a replacement for free.

I expect some open-loop vendors to try and scam consumers with expiration dates printed on cards.  As long as they comply with the law and offer to give you a replacement for free if five years from purchase hasn’t passed, they aren’t technically breaking the law, but surely some of the shadier vendors will discover that some percentage of people won’t realize this despite the law.

I expect most vendors to do away with monthly fees of any type for open-loop cards as this seems to be the trend and customers will learn to avoid the ones that do charge monthly fees like the plague.  This is good news for customers.

To replace a lost or stolen card now costs only $7.50, down from the $15 it used to cost.

Neither card can be used outside the US.

One thing to remember is that open-loop gift cards purchased from banks will require you to provide your personal information.