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Gift Card Rules and Tips

Remember the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009?  I know I’ll never forget. Horses were being replaced with motorcars, the Beatles were on top of the charts, and Shirley Temple was dancing her way into the hearts of Americans.  (I’m no good with history)  Anyway, while the CARD Act changed several rules in the credit card industry, it also affected gift cards.  So whether you’re giving one or you receive one this holiday season, our credit counseling advice is to learn what has changed.

For a budget-friendly gift, our credit counseling advice is to regift a gift card!

For a budget-friendly gift, our credit counseling advice is to regift a gift card!

See the list below to find out about the impact on gift cards.  We also threw in some general tips on buying/using gift cards.

  • Funds on gift cards must be good for at least five years. Money added later must also be good for at least five years.
  • Issuers generally aren’t allowed to charge any fees within the first year after a gift card is purchased. However, you can be charged a fee to purchase the card and to replace a lost or stolen card.
  • After one year, issuers are limited to one fee per month.
  • The expiration date of a card must be clearly disclosed on the card, and fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.
  • Make sure you’re aware of any fees associated with the cards you receive. This will help you stay on budget.
  • Use gift cards within a year of when they were purchased.
  • If possible, keep the receipt or the card ID# somewhere safe. This will help you replace a lost or stolen card.

If you have a problem with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card. If you can’t resolve the problem at that level, you may want to file a complaint with the appropriate authorities:

  • For cards issued by retailers, contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. Or you may file a complaint with your state Attorney General (for a list of state offices, visit www.naag.org).
  • For cards issued by national banks, contact the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) Customer Assistance Group by calling
    1-800-613-6743 or sending an e-mail to: customer.assistance@occ.treas.gov. The OCC charters, regulates, and supervises national banks.

We’ve all got those people on our list who are tough to shop for.  Gift cards can be a great solution.  Just be aware of the rules and fees that may affect the card.


Shopping for a gift card? Maybe you have a gift card of your own that you don’t want.  You could swap your unwanted card for a new one at websites like GiftCards.com and PlasticJungle.com.  They buy and sell used gift cards with remaining balances, and also give you the option to trade.  You could also try craigslist.org to seek out trades.  Just be sure to verify the balance on the seller’s card before you make the deal.  You can do so by calling the phone number on the back of the card and providing the card #.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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