The Best Way To Give (and Get) Gift Cards

Gift cards have become a go-to option for many when it comes to giving gifts. They strike a balance between the flexibility of cash and the personal touch of a chosen item. Yet, there’s a downside: they can easily be forgotten or misplaced, potentially losing their value over time. In fact, billions of dollars in gift cards remain unused each year. So, how can you ensure that your gift cards don’t suffer this fate? Let’s dive into the ins and outs of gift cards, including how long they last, potential fees, and tips for making the most of them.

How Long Do Gift Cards Last?

Thanks to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), gift cards typically last at least five years from their issue date. Some states even offer longer protections or prohibit expiration altogether. This means that retailers can’t deactivate cards prematurely, giving recipients ample time to use them.

Unused Gift Cards Can Lose Value

Although gift cards may not expire for several years, they can start to lose value due to inactivity fees imposed by businesses. However, these fees are subject to certain conditions, such as a year of inactivity before charges can apply, and businesses must disclose any fees at the time of sale. State laws also play a role, with some states offering stronger protections against expiration and fees than others.

How to Get the Most Out of Gift Cards

To avoid losing value or forgetting about your gift cards, consider these practical tips:

  • Store them in a visible place where you won’t forget about them.
  • Use them promptly, ideally within a month of receiving them.
  • If possible, load them onto a digital platform for easy access and security.
  • When giving gift cards, choose retailers or services that the recipient is likely to use and appreciate.
  • Consider e-gift cards for added convenience, especially for tech-savvy recipients.


Gift cards are a convenient and thoughtful gift option, but they can lose value if not used promptly. By understanding the regulations around expiration and fees, and implementing strategies to maximize their utility, both gift givers and recipients can ensure that gift cards are enjoyed to their fullest potential.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.How do gift cards work?

Gift cards operate much like cash. The purchaser loads a specific amount onto the card, which the recipient can then use to make purchases. They are often associated with specific businesses but may also be offered by credit card companies.

2.Are there gift cards that don’t expire?

In some states, gift cards may never expire, and funds on Mastercard and American Express gift cards never expire. However, the physical card may need replacement after a certain period, which can be easily arranged.

3.Who buys gift cards?

Gift cards are purchased by individuals seeking to give a flexible and thoughtful gift. In cases where recipients have no use for the cards they receive, they can often be sold or traded for cash or other goods

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