Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Treat Isn't Really "My Treat"

Happy Holidays everyone. I know its been a while, but things have been very interesting for me. New job, new child, you know ... life.

Being Asian, red envelopes full of money (lai see) are a welcome gift in a stocking or under the tree. Being married and having kids I don't see them much anymore. Instead, gift cards have become the ubiquitous gift in a lot of envelopes.

And, I got a VISA "MyTreat" card this year. I thanked the friend who gave it to me and really do appreciate him remembering me at this time of year, but I hope to never receive another of these ever again ... not unless VISA changes things.

Most gift cards come in a cardboard wrap and have a few rules attached to them ... usually an expiry date or "participating stores only" stipulations. The VISA card has a few more charges and rules, however.

First, there is a Purchase Fee of $3.95. That's right ... $3.95 is skimmed right off the top and given to VISA. This may not be much on a $100 Gift Card, but for the $25 one it comes to a whopping 15.7%. So the recipient of the gift does not even get the full value of the Gift Card. What a rip-off.

There are other rules too - maintenance fees, fees for inquiring how much of a balance you have left etc. Most of this is on the back of the card (see the first diagram). But, on the inside, there are (surprise, surprise), more rules (see the second diagram). For instance, you MUST have a bill of over 20% more than the value of the card when using this card at a restaurant, hotel car rental agency or cruise line (on the MyTreat Website, this is listed as 15%. So, which is it?). And don't bother trying to return any merchandise bought with this card. It is too much of a headache. These rules are not written where the purchaser can clearly read them before deciding to purchase this nonsense of a gift card.

Finally, a long two page contract is included with the card. Luckily, it does not have any more hidden fees, but anyone who thought using this card would be simple was dead wrong.

So be warned. You can purchase a gift card for a particular shop or restaurant or you can get these VISA gift cards that do not provide full value for the recipient and come with a myriad of rules and fees. Your choice. Happy holidays.