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Gift Cards

Many consumers have either given or received a gift card. Several states have passed strong laws on retailer gift cards, resulting in many gift cards which no longer have expiration dates or fees. But, consumers continue to experience problems in trying to use their gift cards, especially with the growing number of retailers filing for bankruptcy.

Many consumers have either given or received a gift card. Several states have passed strong laws on retailer gift cards, resulting in many gift cards which no longer have expiration dates or fees. But, consumers continue to experience problems in trying to use their gift cards, especially with the growing number of retailers filing for bankruptcy. Bank gift cards with a major card network logo, such as a Visa or American Express gift card, have different laws.

In August of 2010, new gift card protections will go into effect:

• Gift cards cannot expire less than five years from the date the card was purchased or money was last added to the card, whichever is later.

• No fees if the card has been used within the past 12 months. If a card remains unused for 12 months, then there can be one fee a month.

• Stronger state laws continue to apply, including for both expiration dates and fees.

• The bill covers both retailer gift cards and prepaid general use gift cards (the ones that often are branded as Visa, American Express, MasterCard, or Discover.) The law does not cover rewards, loyalty, telephone or promotional cards and does not cover paper gift cards or paper gift certificates.

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