Gift cards are popular and convenient gifts (to give and receive) for many occasions. But is it possible for gift cards to expire before they’re used?
The short answer is yes: Gift cards can expire. But federal laws help protect consumers by regulating when gift certificates and cards expire. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) established fair and transparent practices related to the issuance of credit, restricting what credit card companies can charge consumers. It also enacted regulations to limit fees, expiration dates, and unexpected costs from gift cards. The rules limit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards.
1. Dormancy fees cannot be imposed unless the card has been unused for at least one year
2. Only one dormancy fee can be charged each month after the first year
3. The consumer must be given clear and prominent disclosures about fees
The CARD Act also states that gift cards cannot expire until five years after the date the card was purchased or the date money was last loaded onto the card.
While the CARD Act set consumer protections at the federal level regarding gift certificates and cards, it left room for regulation at the state level. Many states have their own gift card laws that can take precedence over federal gift card laws. Find out whether your state has passed any gift card laws by reviewing the chart located on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
Even though you’re now familiar with the basic rules and regulations associated with gift card expiration, you might still discover that a gift card you’ve given and/or received has expired because it was misplaced or forgotten. As a precaution, try to use any gift cards that you receive as soon as possible. This will help ensure that they retain their full value. Read the terms and conditions associated with your gift cards to find out whether they have any fees, and when those fees might be applied.
If you’re holding on to old or unwanted gift cards, consider the many ways you can help ensure they don’t go to waste.
Sell them. Search online for sites that allow you to exchange or sell your gift cards. You may wind up having to pay a small fee to complete the transaction, but at least you can trade in your unwanted gift card for one that you will actually use.
Donate them. Donating unused gift cards can be a great way to contribute to your favorite nonprofits. Plus, your donation may be tax deductible.
Reuse them. Before you throw away any gift cards you might have that carry a low or zero balance, check to see whether it’s possible for you to add value back on to them. Many retailers offer customers the ability to reload store-issued gift cards in exchange for rewards and/or discounts.
Gift them to someone else. Did you receive a gift card for a store you dislike or where you never shop? Simply regift it to someone else who may actually shop there. You’ll please the gift card recipient as well as save yourself from having to spend money on a future gift for that individual.
Return them. Have realistic expectations before initiating a return: Some retailers might not exchange the full value of the card for cash. You may be refunded only a percentage of the face value of the card, or you could end up receiving an in-store credit (which won’t do you much good if you don’t shop at the store in the first place). Other retailers might even refuse to accept a gift card return unless you have the purchase receipt. As a result, check the return policy of a gift card’s issuer before attempting to return it.
Upcycle them. Most gift cards are made of a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This particular type of material is recyclable, but few curbside programs are able to accept this form of plastic because it may contaminate other recyclables in a given batch. You can still do your part to reduce waste, though, by upcycling your empty gift cards. Find creative project ideas online that can help you transform your old gift cards into something useful.
TR# 1004616 | TR# 2887207 DOFU 1/2020
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