What happens to lost or forgotten gift cards

There are advantages to purchasing a gift card or certificate rather than giving cash or a particular item on special occasions.

By carefully selecting the store you buy from, your gift becomes more personal than just giving money. You are showing the recipient that you thought of their preferences while allowing them choices, ensuring they receive a gift they truly want.

But what happens when a card languishes, forgotten in a wallet for months, or even years?

Some cards, such as a bus pass, a calling card for a cell phone or a pass to an amusement park for one season, must be used by a certain time, and this is clearly indicated on the card.

“Cards you give as a gift at a store or for a service, such as a manicure do not expire,” says Annik Bélanger-Krams, an attorney with Option-Consommateur. “Sometimes the physical card will no longer be valid but the amount will be transferred. The amount spent on the gift card can never be lost.”

Since June 30, 2010, merchants no longer have the right to indicate expiration dates on the cards they issue. These cards are not redeemable for cash, but if a balance of less than $5 remains on the card, this will be paid in cash to the client.

However, if the price of the service or item has gone up before the client uses his card, he or she is obliged to pay the difference.

Gift cards and certificates are like cash, Belanger-Krams says, so keep the receipt, in case they are lost or stolen.

What happens if your gift certificate is lost or damaged? Rob Fargnoli of Tony’s Shoes says he checks to see whether the certificate was used. “We keep records, everybody should.”

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