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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.


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