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How to make sure you get full value of gift cards bought to help area businesses during pandemic

(WISH) — Some businesses looking for help getting through the coronavirus pandemic are asking people to buy gift cards so they will come back once restrictions are lifted. But what should consumers be looking out for when buying gift cards?

Erie Insurance is helping their policy holders in this tenuous time to make sure they get the whole value of their gift cards by offering local gift card and gift certificate reimbursement coverage as part of their home insurance policies.

If a business goes under before you can redeem that gift card, Erie customers are covered. There are some specifications to the policy:

  • Reimbursement is limited to up to $250 per gift card purchased.
  • Businesses must be within 100 miles of the customer’s residence.
  • Business must permanently close within a year of the purchase of the gift card.
  • Business must not employ more than 100 full-time employees.

Erie will only cover up to $500 per policy period for this service, but the business involved does not need to be insured by Erie. This coverage was automatically added May 1 to new and existing homeowner and renter policies in Indiana.

If you don’t have Erie Insurance, Tim Maniscalo, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana, advises to spend the gift card as soon as you can so you don’t lose that money if the business goes under, or if you leave the card unused for too long.

“The cards can lose value over time if you don’t use them, so I would urge people to use a gift card as soon as they can or give it away to somebody who can use it if you can’t use it,” Maniscalo said.

If you don’t think you will use the gift card, there are sites where you can sell or trade it in, but be very careful to ensure the site you’re using is reputable. Maniscalo said one of the best ways to make sure a site is legitimate is to look at the URL for “https” — the “s” stands for secure.