While the information in yesterday’s post, “Don’t Let Gift Cards Become Free Money For Stores” was good, the title was erroneous. Actually, depending on the state, unused gift cards may be classified as unclaimed property. The value is then turned over to the state in a process called “escheatment.” It would appear, however, that in some states, the stores do get to keep the money. This PDF gives a breakdown of how the laws generally apply state by state.
States that generally exclude gift cards/gift certificates as part of escheat laws:
Delaware (less than $5)
Idaho (with expiration date)
Illinois (without expiration)
New Hampshire (under $101)
New York (unsettled)
Tennessee (no expiration date or dormancy fees)
Utah (under $25)
Wyoming (under $100)
States that do specifically include gift cards/gift certificates as part of escheat laws:
District of Columbia
(Source: National Restaurant Association)
If, as a recipienthttp://www.restaurant.org/government/state/giftcards/giftcards_200309_states.pdf, your gift card has escheated to the state, you can file a claim with your state comptroller’s office to have it returned.
In general, though, you’re best off spending a gift card as quickly possible. Certain cards have “maintenance fees” and other fees that can devalue the card over time.