How to Activate a Gift Card


Gift cards are a great present choice when you don't know what to get for your family or friends! Many gift cards need to be activated before they can be used. This helps to protect the card from fraud if it is lost or stolen. You can either activate the gift card yourself if you purchased it online or get the card activated in-store at the time of purchase.

Part 1
Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online

Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online on How to Activate a Gift Card

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Many merchants offer gift cards that are available for purchase online. This means that you can purchase the card remotely and don’t need to visit the merchant in-store. Pick the type of card and the specific amount that you want to be loaded onto it. Use your credit or debit card to purchase the gift card.[1] Your gift card will be shipped to you. Make sure that you enter the correct postal details. Take note of how long the website specifies that it should take for your card to be delivered.

Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online on How to Activate a Gift Card

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The gift card will most likely be in an envelope with instructions detailing how to activate and use the card. If your gift card hasn’t been delivered within a reasonable amount of time, contact the retailer to track it down.[2]

Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online on How to Activate a Gift Card

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Gift cards have covers that hide the PIN number or activation number to reduce the likelihood of theft. This is usually on the back of the card. Peel off the sticker using your fingernail to reveal the number underneath.[3] Some gift cards have a scratch-off cover over the activation number rather than a sticker that you peel off. Be careful not to scratch the covering off too roughly, as you may accidentally remove the numbers underneath.[4]

Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online on How to Activate a Gift Card

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The instructions that specify how to activate the gift card will either be enclosed with the card or will be written on the back of the card. This includes either a URL that enables you to activate the card online or a phone number to call where a representative will activate the gift card for you.[5]

Activating a Gift Card Purchased Online on How to Activate a Gift Card

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Look at the back of the card to find the identification number and the activation code, which should be labeled accordingly. If you are activating the card online, the website will prompt you to enter 2 different numbers for the gift card. If you are calling the phone number, you will be prompted to either enter the numbers or to inform the representative.[6] The first number that you enter will be the identification of the card. The second number that you enter will be the code or PIN that activates the card. The activation code is usually shorter than the identification number. If you have trouble working out what numbers to use, contact the customer service department of the merchant. An activation code or a PIN number for the gift card helps to protect it against fraud. The gift card is ready to use as soon as it has been activated.

Part 2
Activating a Gift Card In-Store

Activating a Gift Card In-Store on How to Activate a Gift Card

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Some stores will have a range of gift cards available to purchase from many different retailers. This is common at supermarkets and department stores. Alternatively, other stores will only sell gift cards that can be used for that particular retailer. This is typical of clothing stores, food outlets, and smaller, local businesses. There are often many different designs and patterns available for the same gift card, so look at the full selection before you decide.

Activating a Gift Card In-Store on How to Activate a Gift Card

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A gift card is the equivalent of cash that can be used with a particular merchant. There is usually a minimum and maximum amount that can be loaded onto the card, which typically ranges from $10 and up to $500. Decide the amount that you want to be loaded onto the gift card once you have purchased it.[7] Many gift cards have the option of you choosing the exact amount to load. However, some gift cards are only sold with set balances such as $25, $50, or $100. In this scenario, pick a gift card with a set balance that is closest to the amount that you want to spend.

Activating a Gift Card In-Store on How to Activate a Gift Card

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Take the gift card to the cashier and say the amount that you want to load onto the card if it doesn’t have a set amount specified. The cashier will load and activate the gift card as you purchase it.[8] If you have any questions about the terms and conditions, or the expiry date of the gift card, ask the cashier. If you are concerned about the activation of the gift card, check with the cashier that it is properly activated and ready to use. The cashier may provide you with a receipt confirming that the card has been activated.

Activating a Gift Card In-Store on How to Activate a Gift Card

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The receipt will provide proof of purchase and activation of the gift card. Keep the receipt for as long as you have the gift card, just in case it doesn't work as it should.[9] The receipt will be useful if you have any problems with the gift card at a later stage. It can also be a good idea to give the recipient of the gift card the receipt in case they encounter any problems with the card.