The Best Way to Buy Restaurant Gift Certificates

While each year, millions upon millions of people look to the Internet to find gifts for loved ones or special occasions, not everyone shops smart. The number of fraudulent transactions grows each year, even as online retailers institute new security measures and trade practices.

There are bargains to be had, or are there? As any savvy Internet shopper knows, you don't always have to pay full price to get what you want. Just make sure that you are getting your money's worth. You may pay 20 percent less than face value for a restaurant gift certificate on a site such as eBay, but if you have to pay for shipping, it may have been better to save your money.

There are a great many things to watch out for, some obvious, some not. There are ways to make sure that your purchase is safe and that you're protected. One of the favorite scams of Internet sellers is the "dummy card." They will go to a restaurant and ask for a gift certificate, but they won't load it. They bring it home, slap a sticker on it for a fake face amount, and then sell the useless card. Another thing they try is to sell a card that is almost empty-might only have 32 cents left on it. This is the easiest scam to overcome. All you have to do is ask the seller for the card access number. This is the account number which is displayed along the bottom of the card. With this number in hand, and the customer service number, you can ascertain the value of the card in question.

Buy with a little common sense. If a seller wants $45 for a $50 card, that's great. Once you have confirmed the card's actual value, check the shipping cost. Obviously a restaurant gift certificate or gift card can be mailed in a standard envelope, so if the seller is charging $7 for the shipping, walk away. You wouldn't have saved $5, but would have had a $2 loss-that $50 gift card actually cost you $52. Be smart and use common sense, and your restaurant gift certificate shopping will be a breeze.

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