Consumers either buying or receiving gift cards are reminded that national laws provide for a minimum three year expiry period, but there may still be risks involved.
The risks, warns Consumer Protection, are that the business might close before the card is redeemed, or the card could be forgotten, lost or stolen. For those reasons, cash as a gift is recommended over a card.
The minimum three-year expiry date means that any gift card sold after the laws took effect on 1 November 2019 would currently still be valid for redemption and those bought for this Christmas should be valid until Christmas 2024.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe says an unused gift card is virtually a donation to the retailer.
“It’s been conservatively estimated that gift cards to the total value of $70 million a year are not redeemed before they expire which means that the money is actually gifted to the retailer by default,” Mr Newcombe said.
“We believe cash gifts are a safer option, but if you do receive a gift card, we recommend it is spent as soon as possible. Otherwise it could be put away and forgotten or even lost.
“Even though expiry dates are now at least three years from purchase, spending it shouldn’t be left too long as the business might not be around. If the store closes, so too does the possibility of using its gift cards and, as an unsecured creditor of that business, getting your hands on the money is unlikely.
“Retailers are required to clearly state the expiry date on the gift card, so it can be challenged if it doesn’t comply with the three year rule and the recipient won’t be caught out not knowing when it will expire.
“Traders cannot charge post-purchase or administration charges that will reduce the value of your gift card, such as activation, account keeping and balance enquiry fees.”
There are some exceptions to the rules, including cards or vouchers:
- For a good or service available for a limited time where the card or voucher expires at the end of that period. For example, entry to a concert or museum exhibition;
- Supplied to a purchaser of goods or services as part of a temporary marketing promotion. For example, a $50 wine voucher valid for one month that is mailed to a consumer as a free bonus with a purchased item that was not part of the purchase offer;
- Donated free of charge for promotional purposes. For example, a local shopping centre has a one-day marketing promotion where each visitor to the centre on that day is handed a $20 gift card that is valid for use at any store in the centre for that day only;
- Sold for a particular good or service that is below the market value of the good or service (genuine discount);
- Supplied as part of an employee rewards program; and
- Given as a bonus in connection with a purchase of a good or service for use in the same business, such as customer loyalty programs.