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Gift Card Rules and Restrictions Have Changed

New protections for consumers may change the way you use gift cards.

The days of gift cards decreasing in value after as little as six months because you didn’t use them—or the card expiring after only a year—are gone. As a result of the Credit Card Accountability Act, rules are now in place to protect your gift recipient. However, not all types of gift cards are protected. Take a look below before you purchase any gift cards this holiday season.

What type of cards are covered by the rules?

  • Store Gift Cards
  • Gift Cards with a MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover brand logo

How are the cards protected?

  • Limits on expiration dates. The money on gift cards is now good for at least five years from the date the card is purchased. If money is added later that amount must be good for at least five years as well.
  • Replacement cards. If your gift card has an expiration date you still may be able to use unspent money that is left on the card after the card expires. For example, the card may expire in five years but the money may not expire for seven. If your card expires and there is unspent money, you can request a replacement card at no charge. Check your card to see if expiration dates apply.
  • Fee Limits. Gift card fees typically are subtracted from the money on the card. Under the new rules, many gift card fees are limited. Generally, fees can be charged if:
    • You haven't used your card for at least one year, and
    • You are only charged one fee per month.
  • These restrictions apply to fees such as:
    • Dormancy or inactivity fees for not using your card
    • Fees for using your card (sometimes called usage fees)
    • Fees for adding money to your card
    • Maintenance fees

Gift cards are a great gift-giving solution and these protections help ensure you get the most for the money you spend on them.

Editor's Note: Alyssa Karl is a regular columnist on Patch and an employee at . Her column publishes twice-monthly on Patch. E-mail her at akarl@heartlandcu.com.

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