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Gift Cards – be sure to use them

by Catherine Muriel on 07/8/09

There are thousands of unclaimed gift cards in the country. Surprisingly states consider the amounts left on the card abandoned property, much like unused payroll checks and unused back accounts. 

Maine collects unused gift cards after two years. South Carolina is looking into legislation to give the state the right to collect unclaimed fit card credit, as is Texas. New York collected over $9 million in unredeemed fit cards in 2008 and returned only $2,150 to consumers.

States are even considering collecting on gift cards that have no expiration date, in essence placing an expiration date on the cards. Apparently the states want to take this on as a way of protecting consumers. Retailers do not go out of their way to remind the consumer about their unused gift cards. However states say they will notify consumers about the unused funds. You can view each state’s laws regarding gift-cards online at  http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_financial_services/003889.html

Retailers don’t like this as they enjoy the float that gift cards afford them. It is a form of accounting whereby the retailer shifts unused gift-card credit from a liability account to an income account. Some retailers reported more than $10 million in unused gift card credit in 2008. And retailers don’t think the states will be able to attribute a significant amount of the abandoned gift cards to specific consumers anyway.

Not surprisingly, gift cards are being found and used by consumers as they continue to watch their dollars.  Finding an unused, unexpired gift card is welcomed and being redeemed at a much more rapid rate than prior years according to the National Retail Federation.

So take a look through your drawers and old purses at home and see if you find an old gift card – you might want to use it before your state legislators consider it part of their budget!


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