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How to replace a lost, stolen gift card (or return an unwanted one)

Many retailers give options; easiest one is to keep receipts

By Melody Warnick and Fred O. Williams

The reason so many of us love gift cards -- they're a lot like cash -- is also the reason they can be hard to replace. If your card is lost or stolen, most retailers are sympathetic, but only if you can prove that you actually purchased, or were gifted, the card.

Replacing lost, stolen gift cards

To replace a card that's been lost or stolen, or return one you don't want, you have to do at least one of these things to demonstrate proof of ownership:

1. Keep the card's activation receipt.

2. Write down the gift card number.

3. Put the card's number in your mobile wallet.

"You need one of those three things for the retailer to look up a missing card," says Shelley Hunter, founder of and a spokeswoman for "And if you don't have those things, you're out of luck." See "Major retailers' gift card return and replacement policies " chart below for details.

If you held on to your receipt, or the generous soul who gave you the gift card can produce one, or if you know the card number, contact the retailer immediately. Most maintain toll-free numbers, available on the store's website and staffed by customer service representatives. They can cancel the card and work on

issuing you a new one. Some retailers, such as Simon Malls, can replace cards over the phone as long as you know the gift card number; others, including Starbucks, replace a lost gift card you registered online.

If it's a store card, you may not even have to pay for a replacement fee, but that's less likely with bank-issued gift cards. American Express now offers to replace lost or stolen gift cards for free if you have the original card number, but replacing a Wells Fargo Visa card costs $7.50, or $15 for a check cashing out the remaining funds on the card. SunTrust charges $5 to replace a MasterCard gift card. If your bank wants to charge a replacement fee, ask about simply getting your money refunded instead, which may be free.

Even if you never wrote down the number and the receipt is long gone, you're not entirely out of luck. If you already used the gift card to shop online, your data may still be stored in your account -- and you can spend it down pronto. Otherwise, consider trying to get reimbursement from PayPal or your credit card company if you ordered a card online and it never arrived, or replacing a gift card stolen from your home through your homeowner's or renter's insurance coverage. Check your policy for coverage details.

Lost your gift card? Have you tried to get a replacement from the retailer?

Category: Forex

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