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Photo of Senator Joan Hartley.


Joan Hartley

An Independent Voice

Consumer Protection Alert: Useful Gift Card Tips

It's that time of year when many people are purchasing and receiving gifts, including gift cards, so it's important to remember your rights and responsibilities where gift cards are concerned.

First, there are two sets of Connecticut laws that apply to gift cards: cards that are sold in Connecticut and are not backed by a federal financial institution are covered under Connecticut state law; cards that are sold in Connecticut and are backed by a federal financial institution are covered by federal law.

gift cards.

To determine if a card is backed by a federal financial institution, visit the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection's gift certificate and gift card page.

Gift cards issued by Connecticut retailers will most likely be covered under Connecticut state law. If Connecticut state law applies, gift cards may not have an expiration date or an inactivity fee.

Neither federal nor Connecticut gift card laws cover reloadable, pre-paid cards. Reward cards and pre-paid calling cards are not covered, either.

When buying a gift card, make sure you know what type of card you are buying. Buy only cards that clearly disclose information about the initial cost, monthly fees and the expiration date. If a card doesn't disclose information about fees and expiration dates, consider purchasing a different card.

When receiving a gift card, try to spend the entire balance as soon as possible, as you will be more likely to use all of the card's value. You'll also reduce your chances of losing some or all of the value of the card if the issuer goes out of business. Also, keep track of your balance. Some gift card issuers provide information online about your card balance.