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Gift Card Laws

Updated on April 20, 2015

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.
  • Fees.
  • 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.

STATES WITH TOUGH GIFT CARD LAWS

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island


STATES WITH WEAK GIFT CARD LAWS

  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia


STATES WITH GIFT CARD LAWS ON THE BOOKS

Arizona

  • Fees and expiration dates are allowed if they are disclosed.

Arkansas

  • 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

  • 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.

Connecticut

  • Gift cards may not expire.

Florida

  • Gift cards may not expire, but there are exceptions.

Georgia

  • Prominent disclosure of expiration dates and fees is required.

Hawaii

  • Fees are prohibited, and cards may not expire for two years.

Illinois

  • Cards cannot expire for five years. No fees are allowed.

Iowa

  • No fees are allowed (with some exceptions.)

Kansas

  • No expiration dates are allowed for five years. No fees are allowed for one year.

Kentucky

  • No expiration dates are allowed for one year. No fees allowed in some cases.

Louisiana

  • No expiration for five years. "Handling" fees are allowed.

Maine

  • No expiration dates allowed, but some "transaction" fees are permitted. Store gift cards with a balance under $5 can be redeemed for cash.

Maryland

  • No expiration for four years. No fees are allowed for four years.

Massachusetts

  • No expiration for seven years. No fees allowed. Fines imposed if a retailer charges fees.

Michigan

  • No expiration for five years. No fees allowed.

Minnesota

  • No expiration dates allowed. No service fees allowed.

Montana

  • No expiration dates allowed. No fees are allowed.

Nebraska

  • Prominent disclosure of fees and expiration dates is required.

Nevada

  • Expiration dates and fees are allowed if they are disclosed.

New Hampshire

  • Expiration dates are prohibited on cards worth less than $100. Fees are prohibited.

New Jersey

  • No expiration dates or fees are allowed for two years. No fee can exceed $2 per month.

New Mexico

  • No expiration dates for two years. No fees are allowed.

New York

  • Prominent disclosures of expiration dates and service fees are required.

North Carolina

  • Fees are allowed with disclosure.

North Dakota

  • No expiration dates are allowed for six years. No fees are allowed.

Ohio

  • No expiration dates or fees are allowed for two years. But check the exemptions carefully.

Oklahoma

  • No expiration dates are generally not allowed for five years. Service fees are allowed in some instances.

Oregon

  • No expiration date for 30 days. No fees allowed.

Rhode Island

  • No expiration dates allowed. No fees allowed.

South Carolina

  • No expiration for one year. Fees are allowed if they are disclosed.

Tennessee

  • No expiration allowed for two years. No fees allowed for two years.

Texas

  • "Reasonable" dormancy fees are allowed after one year. Expiration dates must be disclosed.

Utah

  • Expiration dates and fees allowed if they are disclosed in a "readable manner."

Vermont

  • No expiration dates are allowed for three years. No fees are allowed.

Virginia

  • Disclosure of expiration dates and fees is required.

Washington

  • 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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COMMENTS

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    • PrincessJoy profile image

      PrincessJoy 8 years ago

      Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

    • Alexander TG profile image

      Alexander TG 8 years ago

      I think more regulations could benefit the industry but at the same time it could increase the costs on our end.

    • E. A. Wright profile image
      Author

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Gift or prepaid cards from financial institutions (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) are the ones most likely to get a pass from regulation.

      As it happens, these are the cards most likely to charge fees for balance inquiries, etc. You aren't the first to complain of quirks such as "holds" popping up after using the cards at the pump.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Wow, this must have taken some time...By the way, I've found that most of these gift cards (Visa, AMEX) should not me used at the pump, because gas stations will take a hold of up to $50 over and above the purchase price full a full week! The best thing to do in this situation (when using a gift card) is to pay inside to avoid this. Pre-purchase your gas and avoid this annoying problem!

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