Florida To Ban Gift Card Expiration Dates And Maintenence Fees

The Florida House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill banning gift card expiration dates and maintenance fees. The bill now goes before the governor, Charlie Crist. From the Orlando Sentinel:

The measure (SB 1638) now goes to Gov. Charlie Crist, who must sign the bill for it to become law. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but the governor has long portrayed himself as a consumer advocate.

Get your pen ready, Chuck. —MEGHANN MARCO

No fees? No expiration? House OKs gift-card bill [Orlando Sentinel]
(Photo:Ben Popken)

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  1. jaewon223 says:

    I never understood why people buy gift cards that expire and incurs fees that deduct from the gift card. Just give cash folks! Best gift is a gift I can buy myself without worrying about having to use a gift card that will expire when there’s nothing to buy.

    This should be mandated as federal law.

  2. getjustin says:

    Yeah. Florida gets one right. As an interwesting side note, my mom sent my fiancee and I am American Express gift card for Easter or something. I about choked when I saw there’s a $3 opening fee plus maintainance after 12 months on top of the face value. I later told her how much I appreciated the gesture, but to just send a check or transfer me money next time.

  3. B says:

    Doesn’t Florida know they’re supposed to lead the country in Crazy so the rest of us can laugh. Come on, Florida, less with meaningful customer protection and more with “shoot first, ask questions sometimes” laws.

  4. AnnC says:

    Once this law passes, I’ll welcome Florida to the Union of States with Some Semblance of Sanity in Gift Card laws (see http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_financial_services/… for list of members).

    Now if only California will apply its gift card laws to Visa debit cards…

  5. hop says:

    that’s california that leads the country with crazies….they tilted the u.s. and all the nuts
    rolled out to california……..good for florida….hope it passes………..

  6. facted says:

    I would assume that once Florida passes this, it will spread country-wide as merchants will have to apply the rules evenly so as to avoid breaking this law in Florida. We’ll have to wait and see though.

  7. yahonza says:

    Not so sure about this. I mean, won’t they just have a much lower incentive to offer gift cards in the first place? They must cost something to produce and maintain. In a way I like it as a consumer, but I think the proliferation of gift cards we have seen in the past few years will shrink. Which I think is bad.

  8. timmus says:

    I don’t understand why companies impose those expiration dates because it creates an incentive for people to use the gift cards. I know that I’m much more aware of the gift cards I have that are going to expire, and the rest of them I don’t keep good track of.

    Of course if they want to cry about accounting headaches, then oh well, fine.

  9. full.tang.halo says:

    @yahonza Companies love gift cards cause they get the money for your purchase now, and you don’t make the purchase until some time in the future, so they get a massive amount of money against a future liability that may not be incurred. So they get to earn interest on your money in the time between the gift card being purchased and being spent. Add to that the fact that you will probably buy something that costs more than the card they are in a way up selling you to a more expensive product and if you don’t use the pennies that are left on the card, they get that money for free, either in the card expiring or the fees eating the rest of your balance.

  10. Wormfather says:

    …I work in audit/finance for a retail company and these cards cost money to produce and maintain. I just spoke with my boss, if this makes it way to NY we will totally be going back to the good old fashioned paper gift certificate. Problem there is, if you lose it, you’ve lost it.

    The double edged sword people.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    @yahonza:

    Uh, no, a free loan is a free loan. They still make interest or otherwise profit from the time delay, and they still have cards that never get used. It’s still free money.

    The only way I would ever consider getting someone a gift card would be if it came with HUGE discounts. And even then I probably wouldn’t.

  12. TechnoDestructo says:

    @yahonza:

    Also, so what if they stop offering gift cards? In what way do they benefit anyone other than the companies offering them?

  13. Starfury says:

    I don’t mind gift cards, I make a point to use them within a few days of getting them or they’ll get lost/forgotten.

  14. pestie says:

    Crist on a crutch!

  15. SexCpotatoes says:

    Does Charlie have a brother?

    and is his brother’s name Jesus H. ?

  16. legotech says:

    Gift cards are already a great income stream for companies because even without the usurious fees, there is a certain percentage of the cards that will never get used. Quoted stats range from %12-%35 depending on the “sector” ie bookstores, clothing, restaurants etc.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    Just a photo related question… what exactly are those pool noodles (green and yellow foam things next to the lady in the beach chair) good for?

  18. alhypo says:

    I can’t believe companies even have the audacity to charge fees for gift card maintenance. If you go to the store and buy on credit you end up paying interest on the money you haven’t given them yet. Buying a gift card is basically the opposite-as if you are giving them a loan-so they should be paying you interest until you actually arrive to claim your goods. I assume they have this money stored in interest-bearing accounts, otherwise they are idiots. This should easily cover the cost of printing the cards and “maintaining” the accounts, in my opinion, especially in cases where the card doesn’t get used for a long time.

    Personally, I think this is just a ploy to make it look like the government is actually doing something useful. I’ve heard very little complaining from the retailers because I think they recognize that this is a convenient distraction from other more pressing issues. For example, does anyone else think it is ridiculous that corporations get to keep two sets of books? One set is used to maximize profit and the other to minimize it. Guess which set they show to Wal-Street and which one they use to file taxes. They pretty much get to have their cake and eat it, too.

  19. maggie says:

    “maintenence” = Maintenance

  20. sk1d says:

    The reason companies charge these fees and have expiration dates is because when you buy the card, the money goes on the company’s books as unearned revenue because they have accepted your money, but they have not delivered a good or service. Until they deliver that good or service they can not realize that income, count it as earned revenue. As a result it continues to sit on the books as a liability against the company. This is assuming that they are using proper Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and not fudging the numbers.

  21. hop says:

    @MercuryPDX: the noodles are used as a floatation device ,for fun, in the water…you can straddle them like a horse and float..they aren’t a life saving device, but they will keep you afloat….

  22. AndyDuncan says:

    FWIW: From the perspective of the company having a large amount of cash on hand that technically belongs to one of your customers can create accounting headaches if it never goes away. We ran into something similar at a past company I worked for. The “maintenance fee” is implemented so that the accounts will “go away” after a certain amount of time. It’s not that the companies are trying to screw people who buy these things, it’s that they don’t want to act as a bank.

    Yes, the money is technically a “free loan” until the customer uses the card, but for most companies the interest on that amount of money is negligible. The real cost for them is operating of the program.

    That said, many companies charge exhorbinant, punitive fees that are out of line with their actual costs (real, or just the ones on the accounting sheets) and are designed to maximize their profit on a particular card. Gift cards from credit card companies come to mind.

  23. LilJeannie says:

    Wah wah wah….So I am a small business owner that sells thousands of gift cards per year…and they have always EXPIRED in one year! (LESS than 10% get expired/unused!)

    Now this new law will make them good FOREVER. Yay! Right? Well, as a CONSUMER, that sounds great…but just for a second, imagine: It’s Christmas and rather than battle the mall, you’re going to write checks to all of your aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and best buddies for Christmas. A few of them cash right away! The other checks get lost, dropped in a drawer, folded up in a wallet, or are otherwise drifting in space for months, years, or decades. Wow! Have fun balancing your checkbook, eh?
    You can still SEE the money, but damned well can’t touch or spend it for fear that all those relatives just MIGHT cash their checks any second now and JEEPERS! What if they bounced! Yikes. The nation wouldn’t have such serious debt problems if people had will-power, restraint, and self-control to NOT overspend or live above their means. Business owners are people too. This will be a mess for accounting, and a real liability if a business owner ever decides to sell or shut down. wah wah wah. I know. Poor business-owner me.

  24. randalf says:


    I think it’s rather disingenuous to complain about the effect this will have on businesses. They created these giftcards, so they can deal with their administration. If the unclaimed cash is an accounting headache, they should be upfront about the expiration and annual costs applied to the cards rather than hiding it in the smallprint.

    But if you’re upfront about the dollars you’re going to skim off the giftcard’s balance, less people are going to tie their money into your card and will go and use something far more flexible like… cash, I guess.