There are two young adults who I got to hold as babies, and since I don’t have any children I’ve kind of adopted both of them as my kids. They’re sisters as well and their father is one of my best and oldest friends, so it all works out just fine.

Since they’re older, what I’ll do is buy them gift cards so they can buy whatever they want to instead of my trying to figure out what they might like. That’s always seemed like a good idea to me, but I’ve started thinking that it might not be the best of ideas. And, in thinking about it in other ways, people could be getting seriously ripped off by both gift cards and prepaid cards.

Back in March I wrote a brief post on gift card fees and how those who sell them were going to have to spell out what the fees are come August. At the time, it looked like this regulation was going to be a major benefit to its customers. Instead, consumers haven’t been taken care of at all.

There’s still nothing saying how much fees will be, only that there will be fees for transactions. Most people couldn’t begin calculating how much of a fee there will be on a purchase, and that’s not good. I give someone a $50 gift card, and they’ll be lucky if they get $40 out of it, all of which probably should be spent at once instead of saving it up for something else. And I already paid a fee up front to buy the thing; isn’t this kind of a double, or triple dipping at times?

If that’s problematic, what about prepaid cards? Those are cards you put money on so you can use them as credit cards for things such as renting cars or hotels because they only accept credit cards as holds, and you might not have one. It sounds like a great idea, and a great way to build your credit up if you’ve got a bad history.

The problem once again is fees, and the dollar amounts change based on what it is you’re trying to do and where you’re using the cards. It’s been estimated that one could literally spend upwards of a thousand dollars a year on fees alone; heck, banks can’t charge you that much money.

Of course it’s still better than the 79.9% interest rate credit card, but at least with that card you know what you’re getting yourself into. I wouldn’t recommend you use any of these if you don’t have to. It’s just another way consumers are being ripped off. Gift cards, however… I don’t think the kids mind so much. It’s still better than anything I’d try to buy them outright.

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