Gift Card Laws
A STATE-BY-STATE GUIDE TO GIFT CARD LAWS
GIFT CARD REGULATION
As gift cards became an ever-more-popular present over the past decade, millions of card holders began discovering some unpleasant downsides wrapped up in the fine print on these plastic presents.
- Rapid expiration dates.
- Balances that dwindle over time.
The good news is that consumer protections for gift card holders have improved markedly over the past five years, and most states now have laws regulating at least some kinds of the cards.
But expiration dates and fees are still allowed in many parts of the country. And the consumer protections that do exist vary widely from state to state.
- For a detailed state-by-state guide to gift card laws as of August 2009, keep reading.
Related article: MORE ABOUT GIFT CARDS
- Help, My Gift Card Expired!
Gift cards offer convenience but come with catches. Here's what savvy consumers need to know about gift card expiration dates, fees and the evolving patchwork of gift card laws. — E. A. Wright
STATES WITH TOUGH GIFT CARD LAWS
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
STATES WITH WEAK GIFT CARD LAWS
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina Legislature Online
STATES WITH GIFT CARD LAWS ON THE BOOKS
- Fees and expiration dates are allowed if they are disclosed.
- Cards can't expire for two years. No fees can be charged for two years. Disclosure of fees after that time must be on the card itself.
- California has regulated gift cards since the late 1990s, and a 2008 law strengthened consumer protections for gift cards. Many kinds of gift cards are not allowed to expire, ever, and some cards with a balance of less than $10 may be redeemed for cash.
- Gift cards may not expire.
- Gift cards may not expire, but there are exceptions.
- Prominent disclosure of expiration dates and fees is required.
- Fees are prohibited, and cards may not expire for two years.
- Cards cannot expire for five years. No fees are allowed.
- No fees are allowed (with some exceptions.)
- No expiration dates are allowed for five years. No fees are allowed for one year.
- No expiration dates are allowed for one year. No fees allowed in some cases.
- No expiration for five years. "Handling" fees are allowed.
- No expiration dates allowed, but some "transaction" fees are permitted. Store gift cards with a balance under $5 can be redeemed for cash.
- No expiration for four years. No fees are allowed for four years.
- No expiration for seven years. No fees allowed. Fines imposed if a retailer charges fees.
- No expiration for five years. No fees allowed.
- No expiration dates allowed. No service fees allowed.
- No expiration dates allowed. No fees are allowed.
- Prominent disclosure of fees and expiration dates is required.
- Expiration dates and fees are allowed if they are disclosed.
- Expiration dates are prohibited on cards worth less than $100. Fees are prohibited.
- No expiration dates or fees are allowed for two years. No fee can exceed $2 per month.
- No expiration dates for two years. No fees are allowed.
- Prominent disclosures of expiration dates and service fees are required.
- Fees are allowed with disclosure.
- No expiration dates are allowed for six years. No fees are allowed.
- No expiration dates or fees are allowed for two years. But check the exemptions carefully.
- No expiration dates are generally not allowed for five years. Service fees are allowed in some instances.
- No expiration date for 30 days. No fees allowed.
- No expiration dates allowed. No fees allowed.
- No expiration for one year. Fees are allowed if they are disclosed.
- No expiration allowed for two years. No fees allowed for two years.
- "Reasonable" dormancy fees are allowed after one year. Expiration dates must be disclosed.
- Expiration dates and fees allowed if they are disclosed in a "readable manner."
- No expiration dates are allowed for three years. No fees are allowed.
- Disclosure of expiration dates and fees is required.
- Expiration dates are not allowed (with some exceptions.) Some dormancy fees are allowed (if there are disclosures printed in a six-point font.)
FEDERAL GIFT CARD LAWS
Congress included new limits on gift cards in Title V of the Credit Card Act of 2009.
When the portion of the law relating to gift cards goes into effect, these nationwide limits on "deceptive" practices of gift card issuers will prevent cards from expiring for five years.
This will not affect the stricter laws that many states have already passed.
NOTES ON RESEARCHING STATE GIFT CARD LAWS
Many states, such as Tennessee, do not publish their statutes in particularly user-friendly online formats.
The accessibility of such information is a topic for another day, so for now, please note that some of the links provided here will provide only a jumble of all statutes for a particular state.
The actual text of the laws relating to gift certificates are not simple to find; "just Google it" doesn't always work.
In most states, look for categories of laws relating to business and commerce.
Look for subcategories such as "consumer protection," "stored value cards," "deceptive trade practices" or "miscellaneous."
To keep up with changing laws, check the sites of organizations that periodically compile lists of gift card regulation.
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