How To Prevent Gift Cards From Expiring

November 23, 2015, Written By Bill Hardekopf

Last year, Americans spent $124 billion on gift cards, but over $750 million went unused. If you are one of the many planning to purchase a gift card for a loved one this holiday season, you may be worried that the card will expire before it is used.

The 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act provides that gift cards cannot expire within five years of the date it was activated. Additionally, the CARD Act limits the amount that a card issuer can charge for inactivity, but a fee can be charged if there has been no transaction on the card for a year. States have their own guidelines for when cards expire.

Whether you are giving or receiving a gift card, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Be cautious about purchasing gift cards from small businesses. Only 50% of small businesses last five years, so the company may be gone before you can use the card.
  • Consider buying a gift card that doesn’t expire. The funds on Target cards, for example, are always good (though you need to request a new card if the expiration date on the front has passed).
  • Pay attention to the fine print, especially if you’re using a bank-issued gift card. Visa and MasterCard gift cards may charge activation, dormancy, non-use and service fees. However, the Federal Gift Card Law requires that all of these fees be disclosed.
  • If you receive a card and don’t plan to use it, you can resell it. offers up to 92% of the card value, and offers similar rates. Some gift cards are worth more than others.
  • Consider giving the card to charity, as many national charities allow you to donate the full amount of your gift card., an organization that helps teachers fund trips and books for students, is one of these organizations.

Whatever you choose, it is best to use the gift card immediately. While you have five years to use it, you may forget about the card the longer it sits in a drawer.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 23, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.