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Buying gift cards this holiday season?
Be sure to read the fine print

Consumers should be sure to read the fine print on gift cards this holiday season for details about fees and expiration dates, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says.

While some gift card sellers have done away with inactivity fees, consumers should still ask whether fees apply when purchasing a gift card. As a rule of thumb, DiNapoli said New Yorkers should register the card with the retailer and use gift cards within a year of purchase to avoid inactivity fees.

Money from unused gift cards issued by New York businesses is turned over to the State Comptroller’s office as abandoned property after five years of dormancy. In State Fiscal Year 2015-16, $11 million from gift cards was turned over to the state’s Abandoned Property Fund.

“As New Yorkers finish their holiday shopping, gift cards are often last-minute purchases,” DiNapoli said. “Last year, my office received nearly $11 million from expired gift cards. Reading the fine print before purchasing gift cards can help you avoid fees and protect your money.”

Under the Federal Credit Card Act of 2009, many types of retail cards sold after August 22, 2010 are not permitted to charge inactivity fees unless the card has been inactive for at least 12 months. All terms and conditions for a card must be disclosed directly on the card and gift cards may not expire within the first five years after purchase.

Since January 1, 2011, New York state has required companies offering rebates to disclose whether those rebates will be issued in the form of a gift card and whether any fees will apply to those cards. Rebate cards are not all covered by the same rules as regular gift cards, so this disclosure helps consumers to identify the different cards and how they can be used.

Gift cards may have terms and conditions that can decrease the value of the gift card. These may include charging:

  • service fees when the card is purchased;
  • dormancy fees if the gift card is not used within a certain period of time;
  • fees to call and check the balance remaining on the card; and
  • replacement fees for lost or stolen gift cards.

DiNapoli’s office is currently holding more than $14.5 billion in unclaimed funds from uncashed checks, bank accounts, stocks and more. To find out if you are owed money, visit www.osc.state.ny.us.

 

Source: Press release from the Office of the State Comptroller

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