Bankruptcy may hinder use of gift cards

NEW YORK 03/04/08 As more retailers file for bankruptcy or go out of business, gift cards are turning into worthless pieces of plastic.

The number of bankruptcies and liquidations this year is expected to reach the highest levels since the recession in 1991. And because gift card holders fall into the class of unsecured creditors, experts say they're "low in the pecking order" of people that businesses need to pay back.

One analyst estimates that shoppers could lose 75 million dollars as restaurants and stores close.

One prime example would be the Sharper Image. The store recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It has temporarily suspended the acceptance of gift cards.

Experts say consumers shouldn't assume that their cards will be redeemable if a store files for bankruptcy but remains in business.

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