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How to check your gift card balance without leaving home
You no longer have to reach the store register with merchandise in hand, only to be told your gift card has a zero balance: Consumers can now check how much money is left on their American Express, MasterCard and Visa gift cards without leaving home.
To find out how much money remains on your American Express gift card, just go online. AmEx has set up a Web site that asks cardholders for their prepaid card's number and security code and then provides information on the gift card's available funds and transaction history.
Have a MasterCard or Visa-branded gift card? You can typically find out the remaining balance on your MasterCard gift card either by dialing the toll-free phone number listed on the back and then following the automated prompts or by visiting the Web site listed on the reverse side of the gift card and then supplying your card information. (MasterCard says these methods may vary depending on the individual card's issuer.) You can check Visa gift card balances using a similar process, according to the company's Web site.
Consumer advocates are rarely ones to heap praise on the card industry, but at least one says he appreciates how easy AmEx makes the process of checking gift card balances.
"We consider the American Express gift card to be more consumer friendly than either the MasterCard or Visa gift card, not only because they've eliminated fees but also because their Web site is easier to use," says Stephen Brobeck, executive director with the Consumer Federation of America.
See related: 2008 gift card comparison table
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