Gift cards are a great option for the last-minute shopper, but unfair expiry dates mean that retailers can wind up reaping the rewards. In New Zealand, there is no minimum expiry period, meaning it could expire in a year or less. One in five gift card holders have been stuck with an expired gift card.
Retailers are tightlipped about how much they earn from unredeemed cards. Of the few retailers that publish actual figures on the proportion of cards not used before they expired, non-redemption rates are between 5-10%. Across a multi-million-dollar industry, that adds up to a tidy sum. Gift cards are big business, with 77% of New Zealanders saying they regularly receive gift cards.
We think gift cards should be valid for five years at a minimum – which is what shoppers in the United States and Ireland are entitled to. In 2019, Australia beefed up its laws, requiring gift cards to be valid for a minimum of three years.
We’ve been busy contacting businesses, asking them to up their expiry period. We wrote to 14 companies that trade both here and in Australia, asking them to offer New Zealand customers at least the same amount of time to redeem gift cards that Aussie consumers get.
Just one company, Repco, agreed to extend its expiry dates to three years. However, it has since changed its expiry dates to two years.
Ticketek said it would offer customers 18 months – still a long way behind the 36 months the company’s Australian customers are given.
Four others agreed to at least review dates on their gift cards: David Jones, Event Cinemas, Freedom Furniture and Westfield. However, these reviews have not resulted in any changes.
The following companies either didn’t respond or didn’t commit to any change: Bendon, Harvey Norman, Hoyts Cinemas, Just Jeans, Smiggle, The Body Shop, Ticketmaster and Toyworld.
My gift card has expired. What should I do?
Ask the retailer to honour it. Some may offer a “grace period” but this isn’t usually advertised. Let us know the retailer’s response: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens if I lose a gift card?
While gift cards leave an electronic footprint and retailers are usually able to cancel them if they suspect misuse, terms and conditions often state the card won’t be replaced if it’s lost or stolen. Some companies say they’ll consider replacing a card if the customer’s able to provide the card number or a transaction receipt, but a fee normally applies to reissue a card.
What happens if the owner of the business changes?
Once a business changes hands, an unused gift card is usually worthless. The new owners are bound to honour it only if they’ve purchased the previous owner’s liabilities, which doesn’t happen often.
What if the retailer goes bust?
If you have a gift card for a shop that goes under before you can spend the money, you’ll have to register with the receiver as an “unsecured creditor”. If there’s any money left after the secured creditors have been paid, you could get something. But the chances are usually slim. When Dick Smith collapsed, gift cardholders were left with $334,578 in worthless cards. If you bought a gift card using a credit card, you can ask your bank for a “chargeback” – a refund of the purchase price.
What should I check if I’m buying a gift card?
Ask what the expiry date is and whether there are any other conditions on the card’s use. Keep the receipt and include it with the gift card in case it’s needed as proof of purchase.