How to Activate a Prepaid Gift Card

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Gift cards make a great gift for any occasion or celebration.
Gift cards make a great gift for any occasion or celebration. (Image: Gift Card image by chas53 from Fotolia.com)

The convenience and versatility of gift cards make them an appealing gift for any occasion. In fact, the increase of retail sales by 2.5 percent in the first week of January 2010 resulted largely from consumers redeeming their holiday gift cards, reported the International Council of Shopping Centers. But you must first activate your gift card before you can begin contributing to any retail boost. Fortunately for consumers, the gift card activation process is streamlined and takes less than 10 minutes.

Look on the back of your gift card. Most major vendors print an activation phone number on the large white sticker over the scanning strip. Before using your card, you must activate the gift card account and remove the white sticker.

Provide your gift card account number and security code over the phone to the answering automated service. The account number is the 16-digit number on the front of the card, and the security code indicates the three numbers on the back of the card, next to the signature box. Do not hang up until you hear confirmation that your gift card is now activated.

Register your gift card. Even if you already activated your card by phone, some companies require online registration for online store or catalog purchases. Go to the company's website and click on "Gift Cards" and then select "Register my gift card." You will need to provide the gift card account and security code information, along with your email and home phone information. For some larger companies, gift card registration protects the value of a lost, stolen or damaged card.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not give your gift card to anyone once the activation process is complete. Not every vendor allows you to recover lost money from cards that are stolen or lost.

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