Get Your Expired Bloomingdale's Gift Card Balance Restored

Pam had a Bloomingdale’s gift card that went unused for a couple of years, and when she tried to spend it last weekend, she was told it had expired. Pam found a way to get the balance restored fairly quickly, though. If you’ve got a card from before February 2008, try Pam’s advice below.

This past weekend, I went to Bloomingdales with a gift card that I received two years ago. The salesperson told me it had “expired.” I was furious. How could a gift card “expire” after such a short time? How could they take “my” money?

I searched Bloomingdales.com, and learned that gift cards purchased after Feb. 2008 never expire.

That didn’t comfort me. Then I sent an email to Customer Service. Lo and behold: they replied with a phone number to call to “restore” the balance in my expired card:

1-866-593-2540

A minute and one phone call later, I have the full $109 back on my card.

It’s interesting how no one at the store was willing or able to give me this information — and how there’s no directions about it on Bloomingdales.com.

Comments

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  1. The idea of gift cards expiring always bothered me since the companies already had the money up front.

    • Tiber says:

      @We Don’t Live in the 60s: “Bothered” is a rather polite way to put it. You have paid for something, and they try to limit your ability to receive the item you have paid for. I see in the same light as theft (not as bad as actual theft, just similar to).

      Then again, I’ve always thought gift cards were pointless, unless the company offers them as a bonus or prize, or if they give a discount or say “buy $20 and get $5 free. But that’s just me.

    • Carso says:

      @We Don’t Live in the 60s: To be fair, it’s not quite accurate to say that a company “has the money up front”. Companies aren’t allowed to treat money used to buy gift cards as cash in hand for an extended period of time. In fact, gift card balances in aggregate are a liability on our balance sheet and remain that way in some states for up to 18 months.

  2. chrisjames says:

    Back when I used to get gift cards, I remember they all had up to 18 months expiration since original purchase or last use. That was about two years ago, maybe less. The nicer ones would eat away at the balance after expiring, instead of deactivating.

    These new everlasting cards sound pretty cool, though they probably still deactivate, requiring you to call in and “restore” them anyway. The excuse is supposed to be to clear the card out of the system, probably to keep things balanced and up to date, but that’s more or less impossible. Your card and its last available balance will never disappear barring nuclear holocaust, so pestering them long enough should work for most companies.

  3. Carso says:

    Balances on gift cards expire because of state regulations surrounding what companies can and cannot do with money received to pay for them. The regulations attempt to strike a balance between what’s fair for the consumer and what’s fair for the company. I promise you that in no case is it the intent of the company to defraud the customer of the balance of their card.

    Generally, store employees are not trained on the specifics and intricacies of these regulations – in-store employee turnover is just too high to justify spending money on this kind of training. I’m glad you were able to have your balance restored. Note also that the overwhelming trend is for gift cards never to expire, which is a new system which gives more flexibility both to the consumer and to the corporation.

    • Carso says:

      @Carso: I stated that “in no case is it the intent of the company to defraud the customer of the balance of their card.” This is technically inaccurate – there are plenty of examples of companies who issue gift cards with exactly this goal. For example, some cards have balances that decline slowly over time whether you use them or not. As another example, some cards charge a “usage” fee of $3-5 each time you use them. Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s does not employ these tactics.

    • smokinfoo says:

      @Carso:
      Maybe defraud is a little harsh of a word, but that is exactly what they are trying to do. They want you to give them cash up front for a gift card. Then when you don’t spend it they want to write off that cash as profit. This isn’t some accounting trick. There is no logical reason for a gift card to devalue other then to increase the profit margin of the company that issued it.

      • Carso says:

        @smokinfoo: I know that it is easy to interpret gift card sales in this way. But it does have a lot more to do with accounting and escheetment than most consumers realize. Unspent gift cards are -not profit- for receiving companies. The vast majority of unspent gift card money goes back to the state over time.

    • tooki says:

      @Carso: “In no case”?!? Yeah, right. I have NO doubt that a lot of businesses see gift cards precisely as free money, knowing that a certain percentage will never be redeemed.

      A friend of mine (who’s an economist) once told me one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard: “[Greedy, unscrupulous people] have a different relationship with money than we do. Their relationship with money is like a normal person’s relationship with people.”

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Carso: That’s odd; the only state regulations I’ve heard of surrounding gift cards are the ones that prevent gift cards from expiring (CA, for instance).

      • Carso says:

        @jamar0303: You are correct that in some states, law forbids the expiration of gift cards issued in that state. However, the regulations to which I’m referring are SEC regulations and GAAP standards regarding the valuation of gift card sales and how those sales need to be added to the balance sheet.

    • JohnQPublic says:

      @Carso: That’s baloney. It’s too labor- or time-intensive to train employees on how to restore a customer’s gift card? How convenient. All they need to know is to give the customers a toll-free number.

      • Carso says:

        @JohnQPublic: It’s not baloney. In some areas and during certain times of the year (the Christmas season is a good example), the average employee turnover can drop to a couple of weeks or less. That means that on average, a store employee works for us for a -very- short period of time.

        Even for those short-term employees, training can be extensive. Learning how to use our point of sale system for cash, check, and plastic transactions, learning how to respond appropriately to the most common customer requests, learning how to process refunds and exchanges – all of this takes time. Additionally, it’s difficult to make this information “stick”. Even something simple like a toll-free number to call with gift card issues may be forgotten during a conversation with a customer. And there’s no excuse to be made – that represent a failure on the part of our employee and on the part of our training. But we really do the best we can with the limited time and resources that we have.

        Could this particular situation have been handled differently so that the customer’s request was met with more prompt attention and less inconvenience? Yes. On the other hand, is it also reasonable to expect that employees make mistakes and forget certain important facts, like a customer service number? I’d argue yes.

        • JohnQPublic says:

          @Carso: How do you explain the lack of information on the Bloomingdales.com web site? Is it too difficult to add a sentence under the Customer Service FAQ page about reactivating gift cards?

          • Carso says:

            @JohnQPublic: The FAQ section of the bloomie’s website currently contains a question about lost or stolen gift cards, which directs the individual to contact customer service at 866-593-2540. In addition, clicking, “Contact Us” and then clicking “Contact Us by Phone” leads to the same customer service number.

            In truth, I would bet that a very small percentage of customers visiting the bloomingdales.com site have a question about reactivating their gift card – some, certainly, but a very small amount nonetheless. There are probably a thousand similar questions that a very small portion of the population has, about all sorts of different topics. But none of those questions would qualify as “frequently asked questions” – bear in mind that’s what FAQ stands for. I would argue that it’s not worth sacrificing screen real estate in an attempt to answer every possible question. That’s why we provide our customer service number – so that you can call in and seek assistance if your question is not covered by the FAQs.

            • JohnQPublic says:

              @Carso:

              You must be joking. Do you really believe it’s a minor concern? Something on the level of “How should I wash this cashmere sweater that grandma gave me for Christmas?” I realize — whoever you are — that you are the voice of Macys. But you can’t possibly be drinking that much Koolaid.

              The matter of expired gift cards is indeed a major issue for consumers. Look at the class action SUITS filed against Simon Properties, a national mall operator. If enough people filed suit against a ubiquitous chain of malls, imagine how many people are having the same battle with Federated?

              Do I think your company is willfully making an effort to defraud the consumer? No. Do I think your company is being deliberately quiet and unhelpful? You bet.

              • Carso says:

                @JohnQPublic: First, we’re no longer Federated Department Stores. All corporations and subsidiaries under the FDS name were converted to Macy’s or equivalent except for Bloomingdale’s, which is separate. Delicious, delicious Kool-aid.

                Second, I don’t think I’d describe your situation as a “battle”. Certainly, it was an inconvenience, and for that I apologize. But it seems in the end that all it took to restore the balance on your gift card was a quick phone call – this seems like a positive resolution to me.

                Third, my statement above was that I doubted there were many visitors to the Bloomingdale’s FAQ who were seeking answers about expired gift cards. Maybe I’m wrong – I don’t have current survey data in front of me. Still, anyone that did visit the site with that question has at least two signs pointing them in the right direction.

                I understand that you’ve been frustrated by this situation. And as much as we’d like to prevent any future consumer from having that same frustration, we can’t put a sign outlining our entire gift card policy and the instructions for restoring expired balances on the front of every register. We also can’t have a big flashing button on the bloomie’s site that says, “For gift card balance restoration, click here!” Neither of those are practical solutions.

                In my personal opinion, and in this matter I speak only for myself, there is a clear and direct line of assistance for consumers experiencing the problem of expired Macy’s gift cards. I do not think the solutions that we offer (or the solution that was offered to you) could be described as being deliberately quiet or intentionally unhelpful.

                I promise you that we do not profit one cent when a customer does not spend a gift card. It all goes back to the state. It is illegal for us to claim as profit or otherwise profit from unclaimed gift card balances.

                • we do not profit one cent when a customer does not spend a gift card.

                  @Carso: This is interesting. I have a question though. If I buy a Macys gift card for $1000 and misplace it forever, from what you said, I assume my $1000 would have reverted to the state. However, what about the interest Macys earned from sitting on that money for 2 years? You imply that it “all” goes back to the state, so are you saying Macys would give the state $1000 + interest? If so, what rate is used to calculate this?

                  It seems to me from my basic finance classes that it’s still a profit to the company to hold onto that money during the time before you give the money to the state, unless the state charges you the exact same interest rate (or more) as your normal rate of return on your investments.

                  Although I guess that’s no different than if i held onto the gift card for 2 years, then found it and spent it–Macys would earn and get to keep the interest on that money for 2 years. So I guess you meant “We do not profit when you don’t spend it, any more than if you do spend it.”

                  I hope some of this made sense :)

  4. JollyJumjuck says:

    I absolutely hate gift cards. The store gets your money well in advance of having to trade you anything of value for it. Many of them expire or continually reduce the balance, which is tantamount to theft on the store’s part if the cards are not used within a period of time (i.e. free money for the store). You end up spending your own money as well because while the gift card is in a nice round amount ($20, $50, $100, etc.), merchandise almost never totals to a nice round amount.

    If I can’t think of something to give, I would much rather give cash than a gift card. At least with cash you can spend it wherever you want.

    • shockwaver says:

      @JollyJumjuck: I enjoy getting gift cards for companies I like. If I get cash, it goes on to my credit card, or for groceries or what not. If I get a gift card, I don’t have to feel guilty about buying something I want, instead of something I need.

  5. benh57 says:

    In California, it is generally illegal for single-store gift cards to expire at all.

    They can have a ‘redemption’ date, at the end of which you get a refund, though.

    the law: [www.saclaw.lib.ca.us]

  6. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Is the complainant in California? The expiration of gift cards is illegal there.

  7. chiieddy says:

    In Massachusetts, the expiration of gift cards is illegal as well.

  8. mamacat49 says:

    A few years ago, I got “rebate” from AT&T for $50 on a Visa card. I just put it in my wallet and forgot about it. When I found it 6 months later, it had expired. I called up the number on the card, told the truth (I forgot about it), and they sent me a new one.

  9. lauy says:

    Check your state’s statutes regarding unclaimed property, and you will see when a merchant has to turn the $$$ over to the state (I recall it being an average of five years). As far as gift cards not expiring in CA, I am not sure if that means the merchant never turns the $$$ over to the state, or after a period of time it’s no longer on the card but the cardholder can contact the state to get the unused balance? The link above was not really clear…

  10. giftcardblogger says:

    Michigan also passed a law recently pushing the expiration date for gift cards to 5 years. That is excellent news since it is estimated that about $8 billion in gift cards went unused last year and I am sure some of them just expire without being used. For more on the Michigan law, click on this link – [www.giftcardblogger.com]

  11. Anonymous says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this info. I had the same problem and short of flying to a state with no gift card expiration I was fortunate to come upon this site and this post. I made the call and got my bloomingdales gift card worth $150 reactivated for use within 30 days but I’ll take it! THANKS SO SO MUCH!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I had the same situation this week and resolved it by calling the number on the back of my Bloomingdale’s gift cards: 800-511-2752.

    Thanks for the advice. It was very helpful and easy!