Gift cards are the quintessential easy gift idea. Everybody uses them, and they avoid questions like “Will this fit her?” or “Will he like this?” Gift cards and gift certificates can be found from a variety of stores, ranging from the mundane like grocery stores and drug stores to more specialized businesses like spas and travel agencies. Wherever you acquire or get a card from, however, it is essential to protect yourself as a client and be familiar with your rights surrounding gift card use. After all, these are used as kind of currency and should be treated as frugally as one would treat cash.
Exactly what do I do with a gift card I don’t want?
There are always a lot of choices for putting gift cards you don’t desire to good use. There are websites that exist for the sole purpose of buying and selling gift cards. Gift Card Granny, like, will buy your card for 60%-80% of its value. You can also sell your card on a website like Craigslist or eBay. Other websites like Gift Card Swapping enable you to trade your gift card for starters you’ll actually use.
In 2009, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act [gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ24/pdf/PLAW-111publ24.pdf] passed into federal law. The act covers lots of ground surrounding the protection of credit cardholders, but inaddition it created some federal standards for gift card issuers that are intended to protect consumers. These generally include requiring that cards, with a couple of exceptions, expire at least five years after issuance and that dormancy fees can just only be charged after one year of inactivity and only when these fees are fully disclosed to consumers. Based on the CARD Act, stores are allowed to begin charging dormancy fees – meaning, a demand to keep the card active when it has not been used after a quantity of time – after one year of inactivity, and no more than one charge per month. Eventually, these charges may deplete the worthiness of the card. This is an important way stores and major card issuers like American Express make money. However, some states have introduced additional, and sometimes contradictory, legislation surrounding gift card law.
For example, New York law allows stores to begin charging monthly dormancy fees after just one year of inactivity. It is also legal for stores to charge a replacement fee buy mastercard gift card for lost cards, and they cannot require stores to offer cash back for small balances on cards. Additionally, after five years cards are deemed “abandoned” and the balance of the card is forfeited to the state. Other states, like New Jersey, establish abandonment after as little as 2 yrs of inactivity. (In New Jersey’s case, this policy has been deemed unconstitutional, so the state remains in flux between enforcing the overturned state standard and the federal standard.) Such provisions, which eliminate the profit for card sellers that accompany unused cards, have caused major issuers like American Express to grab of grocery and convenience stores in certain states.
For comparison, California grants gift card users with protection beyond the federal standard. Cards are never permitted to expire, even with five years, and dormancy fees can just only be charged after 2 yrs of inactivity and only when the balance on the card is less than $5.
Imagine if there’s a little money left on my card?
Maybe you are able to really get your balance in cash. Underneath the CARD Act, most businesses are needed to supply cash for the residual balance on a card if the balance is less than $5. (In some states, this minimum value is higher.) Of course, businesses often fail to teach their front-of-the-line staff on this law, so you may need to escalate through the ranks to get someone actually informed of the law.
What should I find out about online gift cards?
Online “gift certificate” sites offering deals like Groupon and LivingSocial belong to a relatively gray section of the law. Generally, they are treated as coupons as opposed to gift cards, meaning they have the ability to generally set their particular terms as it pertains to expiration dates and redemption policies. Groupon, like, requires that stores honor the worthiness a person paid for a package after the deal has expired, but only as a shop credit.
Virtual cards, such as the popular Amazon or iTunes cards that are often sent via email, don’t usually expire. Sometimes they may be redeemed only online and not at brick-and-mortar stores, so read the terms of the card carefully. Otherwise, they are at the mercy of the exact same laws as tangible cards; like, Amazon includes the required language to point that cash refunds are just available where “required by applicable state law,” although it doesn’t give information on how best to begin claiming small balances in cash.