Massachusetts Gift Certificate Law

Under Massachusetts law, a gift certificate or a merchant credit slip (given for returned merchandise) must be redeemable for a minimum of seven years from its date of issuance ( M.G.L. c. 93, s. 14S). The seller must clearly indicate the date of issuance and expiration date on either the face of the certificate, or, if it is an electronic card with a banked dollar value, on the sales receipt, or by means of an Internet site or a toll-free number ( M.G.L. c. 200A, s. 5D ). If the expiration date is not made available by these means, the gift certificate/card is to be redeemable in perpetuity. This law is effective as of April 1, 2003. Gift certificates issued but not yet redeemed as of this date are also to be good for seven years from the date they were issued.

Once a gift certificate has been redeemed for 90 percent of its value or more, the consumer may elect to receive the balance of the remaining value in cash. A purchaser or holder of a gift certificate which, by its terms, authorizes the purchaser or holder to add value, which has been redeemed in part, such that the value remaining is $5.00 or less, must make an election to receive the balance in cash or continue using the gift certificate. A gift certificate with a zero balance is void.

Note: The term "gift certificate" does not apply to pre-paid phone cards ( M.G.L. c. 255D, s. 1).

Gift Card Expiration

Some gift cards have expiration dates; others let the user "reload" or add money to the balance on the card. Information about expiration dates and fees may appear on the card/certificate itself, on the accompanying sleeve or envelope, or on the issuer's website. If you don't see it, ask. If the information is separate from the gift, give it to the recipient with the gift to help protect the value of the card/certificate.

State law does not apply to gift cards issued by a national bank, even though these cards may be issued by an entity other than the bank. However, Federal law allows for fees to be assessed for a certificate or card if three conditions are met. For more information, view the Fees section of this website.

Expired Cards

If your card or certificate expires before you've had a chance to use it or exhaust its value, contact the issuer. Federal law now prohibits the sale or issuance of a gift card or certificate that has an expiration date of less than five years after the card or certificate is issued or funds were last loaded. If the card has expired and the funds are still valid, you may request a replacement card or certificate.

For example, if you have a reloadable gift card that has an expiration date but you have loaded new funds on it before the card expires, you may request a new card with no fee imposed.

Some issuers have stopped charging inactivity fees or imposing expiration dates, so it pays to check with the issuer to make sure you've got the most up-to-date information.