ALBANY — New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is urging New Yorkers to read the fine print on gift cards this holiday season for details about fees and expiration dates. While some gift card sellers have done away with inactivity fees, consumers should still ask whether fees apply when purchasing a gift card.
DiNapoli said New Yorkers should use their gift cards within a year of purchase to avoid inactivity fees and register cards with the retailers. By registering their cards, owners can be identified which improves the opportunity of finding and claiming unused card balances that may be reported as unclaimed funds.
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 2017-18, more than $11.6 million from gift cards was turned over to the state's Abandoned Property Fund.
"Although gift cards are a popular purchase during the holiday shopping season, many of them go unused," said DiNapoli. "Last year, my office received nearly $12 million from dormant gift cards. I encourage New Yorkers to read the terms when purchasing or receiving gift cards so they understand all of the fees, which may reduce the value of the card if it isn't used."
Under the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, many types of retail gift cards sold after Aug. 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 cannot expire within the first five years after purchase.
Since Jan. 1, 2011, New York 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 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 cards.
DiNapoli's office is currently holding more than $15.5 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.