Gift cards keep on giving, and giving, and giving...

Thanks to Ontario's stringent consumer regulations, the value in gift cards will always be there for even the most indecisive person on your holiday gift list. With no expiry date, a gift card is truly the gift that lasts.

TORONTO, Dec. 9 /CNW/ - If King Tutankhamun had been buried with gift cards purchased in Ontario - and if his afterlife had gone according to plan - he could still be shopping today.

"The AGO Gift Card is the perfect gift this holiday season as we host King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs," says Matthew Teitelbaum, Director and CEO of the AGO. "With these commemorative gift cards, you can show your family and friends the wonders of ancient Egypt."

Almost everyone agrees that gift cards are the perfect solution for those "impossible-to-buy-for" friends and family. According to a recent research survey conducted for Google, 94 per cent of Canadians plan to buy gift cards this holiday season, up from 56 per cent in 2008. Expiry dates were the only negative for this gift shopping solution, but they are a thing of the past: Ontario was the first province to ban expiry dates on gift cards in 2007. Other provinces have followed Ontario's lead.

"Gift cards are one of the most popular gift items in retail today," says Ted McMeekin, Ontario Minister of Consumer Services. "We want consumers to have total confidence when buying and redeeming them, and our regulations ensure that."

The market for gift cards in Canada is estimated at $6 billion, and promises to grow even further with the addition of new prepaid gift cards from banks and credit card companies that can be used almost anywhere.(1) While these cards offer greater flexibility for the recipient, because they're not tied to a specific retailer, they typically have a purchase price that ranges from $3.95 to $6.95 (unlike most retailer cards) and they may have other maintenance, service and replacement fees.

"We have strong regulations in place for gift cards, but it's still up to the consumer to be aware of what they are buying," says McMeekin. For example, prepaid gift cards from credit card companies and banks fall under federal law and don't have to abide by the provincial rules. And shopping mall gift cards also differ from retailer gift cards in that there may be some additional fees. "So even though we've taken the worry out of most retail cards, smart consumers still need to read the fine print."

Back at the AGO, King Tut is still generating economic activity after 3,000 years, with a boost for gift card sales.

"People love the AGO gift cards because they're multi-purpose," says Kirstin Mearns, General Manager of shopAGO. "They're reloadable, and they can be used for everything from admission to buying one-of-a-kind items in our shop."

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Five steps to gift card heaven

    
    -   Read and understand the terms and conditions of each gift card before
        you buy.
    -   Buy from a reputable and financially sound retailer.
    -   Recognize that gift cards are as good as cash and keep them in a safe
        place.
    -   Keep your receipt as a guarantee of the value of the card.
    -   Ask retailers to swipe your card to show your remaining balance.
    

Obtain the Ministry's brochure What You Need to Know about Gift Cards at ontario.ca/ConsumerServices or by calling 1-800-889-9768.

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(1) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment- ideas/investor-education/not-all-gift-cards-are-created-equal/article1383584/

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services

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Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services

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