Late last month, Maine legislators passed LD 247 (HP 200). The bill amends Maine Gift Card Law as it relates to unclaimed property. In short, gift cards will still be considered unclaimed property by the State of Maine; however, the date of abandonment has been pushed from 2 years to 5 years of inactivity. Also, a sentence which allowed the gift card issuer to keep 40% of the face value of the gift card when turning the money over to the state was removed.
To sum it up, the full face value of gift cards must be turned over after 5 years of inactivity and according to Maine's Office of Legislative Information, the effective date of these changes is September 28, 2011.
Cheers to this Bill's sponsor, Representative Kerri Prescott of Topsham, Maine. This is definitely a step in the right direction. At least gift cards will not be considered abandoned before they can legal expire under Federal Gift Card Law (5 years).
Also, the notion of splitting up the pot between the state and the gift card issuers makes no sense to me; it's good to see this line stricken from the books.
Still Not Enough
I've written several times about why gift card should not be considered unclaimed property. My reasoning has little to do with who should be allowed to benefit from the value of unused gift card and more to do with whether or not a state can be sure they have the right to such property.
Simply put, the location of the gift cardholder is often unknown. Typically a person who purchased the gift card is not the same as the person who actually owns the gift card. That's because most of us buy and give gift cards as gifts. As such, I don't see how a state can be certain they have the right to property. After all, some of the gift cards a state lays claim to will certainly be held by a person residing in another state.
Furthermore, a state who deems gift cards to be unclaimed property is essentially forcing an expiration date. After the value of the gift card is turned over to the state, the merchant no longer has an obligation to honor the gift card. In order to recoup the money, consumers must go to the state treasurer and search for the unclaimed property. Naturally, most consumers never get the cash from the state and it's the state's budget who actually benefits from classifying gift cards as unclaimed property, not the holder of the property.
A Word Of Advice
One of the easiest ways to be a smart gift card consumer is to use them ASAP. Naturally, that's easier said than done. I certainly have had my moments of letting gift cards sit in my wallet. If you're like me, take a look a ScripSmart's gift card alert system. Just sign up for a free account, register the gift cards you own and we'll send you helpful reminders to ensure you're getting the most out of the gift cards. It's really easy.