You pay good money to buy a gift certificate for a friend or relative.  The friend or relative forgets to use the gift certificate for some time.  Can the gift certificate expire?   About 15 to 20 states have passed or are in the process of passing states laws that ban or limit expiration dates on gift certificates.  For example: 

  • California : Gift certificates can’t expire
  • Connecticut : Gift certificates can’t expire
  • Maine : Gift certificates can’t expire
  • Massachusetts : Gift certificates cannot expire for 7 years
  • New Hampshire ; Gift certificates worth less than $100 can’t expire
  • Rhode Island : Restaurant gift certificates cannot expire
  • Washington : Gift certificates can’t expire
  • Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah : Bill pending to ban or limit expiration dates

In addition, some states have passed laws that ban or limit the administration of "dormancy fees" (monthly charges on gift certificates if they remain unused for a certain amount of time).   

Should I Contact a Consumer Protection Lawyer?

Given the costs of consulting an attorney, you may want to first try to speak with a manager if a company refuses to honor your gift certificate.  Recite the state law banning expiration dates on gift certificates, if applicable, and tell the manager the basis of your claim. However, if the company is uncooperative and you still want to pursue your claim, contact a consumer protection lawyer.  It can be difficult to determine which laws apply to your situation, especially where the gift certificate is purchased in one state and used in another state.  An experienced consumer protection attorney can explain your rights to you and help you successfully pursue your claim.