Ask Liz: Christmas Tree Freshness & Gift-Card Conundrums

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ask Liz: 10-31-08

    How do you make your Christmas tree branches last through the holiday? Johnson's Florists told us:

    • Treat pine tree branches just as you would any cut flower -- change the water frequently.
    • Cut the stems and use flower preservatives to make pine tree branches last longer.
    • Also, keep pine branches in a cool area so keep them out of direct sunlight.

    How can you make smart choices when buying gift cards? The Federal Trade Commission had the following tips:

    • Always buy your gift cards from known and trusted sources.
    • Avoid online auction sites, as cards sold there may be counterfeit or stolen.
    • Be sure to read the fine print before buying, and check for any added fees.
    • Include the original receipt with your gift in case the card gets lost or stolen.

    What rights do I have as a consumer when it comes to gift cards? The FTC says:

    • New federal rules took effect in August that bring added protection to consumers when it comes to gift cards. Now money on any retail or bank gift card can’t expire for at least five years after the card was purchased.
    • Inactivity fees can’t be charged for at least a year, and then only once per month.
    • Remember to treat your gift card like cash, and if your card gets lost or stolen, report this immediately to the issuer. Some companies will replace your card for a fee.

    Got a question for "Ask Liz"? Send any consumer questions to askliz@nbcwashington.com. You can also submit questions on our Facebook Fan Page or on our Twitter Page.