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How long has that gift card you got from Aunt Martha on Christmas that one year been tucked inside your wallet? Is it still good? 

Often times, people aren’t sure if a business will accept a gift card that’s a few years old. But, did you know state and federal laws are in place setting guidelines for gift cards and certificates?

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which set consumer protections for gift cards based on many state laws. The law provides that gift cards cannot expire within five years from the date they were activated and generally limits inactivity fee on gift cards except in certain circumstances, such as if there has been no transaction for at least 12 months. The federal law creates a floor for regulation and leaves room for state regulation on redeeming gift cards for cash and unclaimed property provisions.

In Pennsylvania, gift certificates unredeemed for two years after the expiration of their redemption period, or five years from the date of issuance if they contain no expiration date, are presumed abandoned and escheat to the state. 

Pennsylvania law holds that gift cards/certificates are written contracts to perform a service or deliver a good by a specified date upon presentation of the card/certificate. However, should such card/certificate expire (i.e. contract expire), the issuer has no legal obligation to perform the service or product after the expiration period. Bear in mind that money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased, or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card. If the expiration date listed on the card is earlier than these dates, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost. 

Whether you’re a business selling gift cards or a consumer using gift cards, knowing what the law says will be helpful to know the next time you reach in your wallet for that old gift card from Aunt Martha.

These summaries should be used for general informational purposes and not as a legal reference. If you have questions regarding issuing or redeeming a gift card or gift certificate or a retailer’s practices, please contact an attorney or the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

This information is accurate as of September 3, 2015.

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