When Do Gift Cards Expire?

By Admin on December 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Gift cards have become a popular holiday gift. But what happens if you don't use a gift card right away? Do gift cards expire?

Uncertainty regarding hidden fees, expiration dates, and other restrictions on gift cards led the federal government to establish rules for gift cards in 2010 as part of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act.

Gift Cards Good for Minimum of 5 Years

Under the federal rules established in 2010, gift cards cannot expire earlier than five years after the date of purchase or the last date on which additional money was loaded onto the card. For cards with an expiration date earlier than either of these dates, any money on the card can be transferred to a replacement card at no additional cost.

The federal rules do permit businesses to charge inactivity fees. But these fees, also called dormancy fees, may only be charged after a card has not been used for at least one year and may only be charged once a month. Fees also may be charged to replace a lost or stolen card.

Both the card's expiration date and any fees that may be charged to consumers must also be disclosed on the card or the card's packaging.

State Law May Provide Additional Protections

In addition to federal rules, individual states may have rules that provide consumers further protection for money on gift cards. In California, for example, most gift cards issued for use with the gift card seller or its affiliates cannot contain an expiration date or charge a dormancy fee except under limited circumstances, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs. California law also requires that gift cards with a cash value of less than $10 be redeemable for their cash value.

Learn more about your legal rights as consumer, including product warranties, defective products, and canceling a sale at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Consumer Transactions.

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