North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Redeem New Gift Cards Soon

Friday, January 06, 2012


Gifts cards and certificates are popular holiday presents for friends and loved ones. But recipients can be in for a rude shock if they wait too long to use them.  
Under federal law, gift cards must retain their full value for a year, but then merchants can begin chipping away at the card’s value through fees. That one-year waiting period on fees expires on the anniversary of the date the card was purchased, not the date you received it. The fees must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed on the card and at the time of the card’s purchase.  Your gift card also can’t expire for at least five years.
The law doesn’t apply to gift certificates issued in paper form only. Those can expire or lose value due to fees at anytime. Also, deals you purchase online through websites like Groupon or Living Social don’t necessarily have the same protections as gift cards.
Another threat to a gift card’s value is store closure: if the merchant goes out of business before the card is redeemed, the gift card holder could be out of luck.   In some cases, the person who purchased the gift card may be able to get money back if they paid by credit card.
It’s also wise to keep up with your gift card’s value. Some scam artists steal the numbers from gift cards on display racks. Once someone purchases the card and puts money on it, the scammer goes online and spends the money. When the person with the real gift card tries to use it, there won’t be any money left on it. 
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by a merchant that issued a gift card, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.