Do Gift Card Laws Keep My Groupons From Expiring?

As Groupon continues to expand across the country into more and more markets, consumers are finding they’re not quite sure how to deal with this new beast when it comes to state laws governing coupons and gift certificates.

Consumerist reader James M. wrote in to bring up that in some states, gift cards and certificates can’t actually expire, even if, as with most Groupons, there is an expiration date written on them. He wants to know, “Do Groupons (and similar offers) fall under this clause?”

We reached out to a Groupon rep, who provided their guidelines regarding expiration dates:

Law doesn’t really specify if Groupon is a gift card or a coupon. Gift card law is more stringent, so that’s what we adhere to. A Groupon is good until its expiration date; at that time, the merchant will still have to honor what you PAID (NOT face value), for five years or in accordance with state law. It’s five years in Illinois, and that’s the most strict in the country, so that’s what we ask merchants to abide by. 

So if I spend $20 to buy a $40 Groupon for one dozen roses at Flower Shop, when it expires the merchant owes me a $20 credit to their store. They don’t have to give it to me in one dozen roses, but they do have to give me a credit (not cash) for what I paid.

The rep adds that if for some reason there’s a redemption problem with a Groupon on the merchant end or if they let you down, Groupon will provide a refund or site credit.

As far as other deals go, it’s always a good idea to call the company or check out their site and ask what their expiration policy is. For a handy site to look up gift card laws by state, check out this list.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.