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5 Tips to Avoid Being Stuck With Useless, Expired Gift Cards

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As Blockbuster's gift cards are set to expire, here are five tips to avoid being stuck with useless plastic in the future.

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It seems like Blockbuster Video has been going bankrupt for several years now, but the end is looming larger with the chain's end-date acceptance of gift cards.

According to multiple sources within the company and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it announcement, Blockbuster gift cards become invalid as of April 6. After that date, your piece of plastic will only be useful as a windshield ice scraper.

To avoid getting left out in the cold, you'll want to use your card lickity split. Consider shopping close-out sales, (if you can find a brick-and-mortar outlet) or purchase online at Blockbuster.com to make the most of your gift card.

This isn't the first time we've seen gift cards trashed by a major chain, so here are five tips on how to avoid getting stuck in the future.

1. If you're hearing rumors of a potential demise, research the financial stability of the company. BBB.com and Forbes Risk List are two excellent places to begin looking. Another resource is ScripSmart, which provides consumer-minded information about gift-card purchases. ScripSmart also offers an alert system that pings subscribers whenever a gift-card issuer is in financial distress.

2. Avoid holding on to gift cards for small, locally owned restaurants or businesses. Their policies may change or, more likely, the recession will force them out of business.

3. If you're not likely to use it, then don't lose it. Sell gift cards right away on sites such as GiftCardGranny.com and get up to 95% of the cards value in cash.

4. Find out the type of bankruptcy for which the company has filed. Sometimes a company that's filed for a Chapter 11 will ask the bankruptcy court's permission to honor its gift cards. (Some states, like California, require firms in bankruptcy to compensate gift-card buyers.)

5. When in doubt, use a credit instead of a debit card to purchase gift cards. Then, if the retailer runs into problems, you can request your card issuer to withhold payment until the matter is resolved.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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