Gift cards: Stuck with one? Sell it.

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    In this May 5 photo, (from left) Michael Domingo Labat, his brother Trey, and friend Jason Melerine play while their mothers wait in a food and gift card distribution line at the Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale, La. The boys are children of commercial fishermen, who were unemployed in the spring because of the BP oil spill in the Gulf.
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Retailers make money off of gift cards by charging fees for inactivity or using a card late. Since August, the federal Credit CARD Act has prohibited retailers from charging for inactivity before one year or offering cards that expire in less than five years. Nevertheless, “the government is allowing issuers to sell cards this holiday season that list expiration dates and other terms that don’t comply with the new rules,” says Tony Giorgianni, an editor at ConsumerReports.org, the consumer watchdog based in Yonkers, N.Y.

The loophole is that those buying gift cards are notified of the card’s restrictions, but those receiving the card are usually unaware. Mr. Giorgianni believes the problem will be taken care of next year.

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