Some gift cards or certificates may have fees, such as: activation fees; transaction fees (either for all transactions, for a high number of transactions, or for certain types of transactions); monthly maintenance fees; replacement fees for lost or stolen cards/certificates; balance inquiry fees; fees for inactivity (especially for gift cards - if the card holder has not used the card over a long period of time, a fee might be deducted from the balance each month); or shipping and handling fees if the card or certificate is purchased online or by phone. Some fees may be paid in cash, but others are simply deducted from the value of the card or certificate. Before buying, consider potential purchase fees, as noted above. Also consider any potential fees for the recipient.

Generally, 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. State law, however, does NOT apply to gift cards issued by a national bank, even though these cards may be sold by an entity other than the bank.

For instance, certain mall gift cards may not follow the seven year rule and may also charge fees, because the cards are issued in conjunction with a national bank. National bank-issued cards may be redeemable for a shorter period of time-five years. These cards may also have fees attached that will diminish the value of the card over time-some have monthly "maintenance" or "dormancy" fees that may kick in when the card is not used within a few months; they may also have fees assessed for checking on the value remaining on the card; lost or stolen card fees; or replacement fees if the card expires by its own terms but you still have value remaining on the card you want to use. These fees must be disclosed to you, and can only be assessed if three conditions are met:

  • The card or certificate has to be inactive for at least one year;
  • No more than one such fee is charged per month; and
  • The consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosure about the fees.

Services fees are defined as both account maintenance fees as well as activity-based fees.