Aussies losing $200 million in unused gift cards prompts law change

Picture this: you’ve finally decided to do an overdue wallet cleanout - there’s a few maccas receipts, business cards from places you don’t recognise, scatterings of 5 cent pieces, which would be better off in your bank account, and an expired gift card to your favourite store. 

While you may be left clenching your fist in frustration now, gift cards could soon be given a lifespan of up to 3 years, thanks to a new legislation proposal by the NSW Government, which will be introduced into State Parliament this week. 

The push to change legislation has come in response to the $200 million Aussies are losing each year from unredeemed cards, with NSW alone losing $60 million. 

A 2014 survey by CHOICE also found that 60% of Aussies had problems with their gift cards and early expiry. 

“We’ve had more than 1300 complaints about gift cards to NSW Fair Trading over the past 5 years - mostly about expiry periods and undisclosed terms and conditions,” said New South Wales Better Regulation Minister, Matt Kean. 

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“I think shoppers deserve to get what they paid for. There is no expiry date on cash, why should there be on gift cards. A mandated period of three years will help consumers use their cards,” says Kean.

Fees charged for gift cards will also be looked into. 

And while some Aussies think gift cards are an impersonal gift, the change couldn't have come at a better time with Christmas right around the corner. If you do plan on giving out gift cards this festive season, here are a few things to watch out for: 

What to watch out for in a gift card this Christmas

Fees - Some gift cards may charge a fee for activation or extending the expiry period. 

Store restrictions - Most of the time, gift cards can only be used in certain stores, which can go south if the recipient doesn't shop there. However, Westfield and Coles Group and Myer gift cards may make for better options as they can be used in multiple stores. 

Price cap - Many gift cards have a limit on the amount you can put on it. This amount also cannot be increased or decreased once the card is purchased. 

Non-refundable - Gift cards are non-refundable and cannot be returned if you change your mind or lose it - a silent stab to your bank account. 

Need a place to stash your Christmas fund? Check out our bank account comparison tool.