Gift cards may be the easiest option for gift giving this holiday season, but they are not the safest and carry complicated penalties. Stores are secretly making a profit off of your thoughtful gifts and causing many problems for consumers. Before you buy those gift cards, educate yourself on some of the issues.

Pissed Consumer, the most popular product review and complaint website, shares 5 tips that every gift card purchaser should know.

1. THE DOLLAR AMOUNT IS A LIE – The amount on the card will slowly dwindle as the company will charge you interest on the card. This will range anywhere between 5-10% of what you purchased. In addition to this, you pay a fee to activate the card, so the amount of money for both you and the recipient adds up.

2. GIFT CARDS EXPIRE – Many gift cards only last for 12 months — or even worse, less than that. To prevent all the money from disappearing read your gift card closely to see if there is an expiration date. If there is, alert the recipient to spend the gift card as soon as possible.

3. STORES LOCK YOU IN – Gift cards require you to spend the set amount of money at that particular store, yet the recipient of the gift may wish to spend the gift funds somewhere else.

4. YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION IS BEING RE-SOLD – Often the store that you purchase the gift card from will collect your personal information and use it for their marketing purposes. Some companies will even go as far as selling your information to other marketers.

5. SPECIAL DEALS WITH GIFT CARDS – Remember that special deals with gift card are too good to be true. For example, two massages for the price of one may be the rate for the introductory massage only. If you are purchasing the card for a regular customer they will not be able to take advantage of the introductory rate which was what the card was intended for.

Remember this holiday season to read all the fine print associated with the gift card to avoid these headaches.

About is a premier consumer advocacy group, featuring consumer reviews and complaints in a social networking environment. The company uses online tools to publicize reviews and complaints filed by consumers on the Internet. In addition, the site offers a set of free tools necessary to bring the dispute to a fast and successful resolution, including a consumer complaint letter generator and collection of consumer tips and advice in the site’s consumer advocacy section.