Just like last year, many New Jersey residents will be buying gift cards this holiday season. However, there is one important difference for 2012: all gift cards sold on or after September 1st, 2012 can be redeemed for cash if the balance if less than $5.00 and the gift card has been used at least once.
To clarify, this is only for gift cards sold after the effective date. In other words, if you have a gift card which was purchased anytime before September 1st, 2012, the merchant does not have to provide cash back.
Also, the gift card must have been redeemed at least one time prior to requesting cash back. For example, if someone gives you a gift card for $4.99, the merchant is not required to provide cash back until you use the gift card to buy some merchandise. If you can buy a pack of gum for 99 cents and have a remaining balance of $4.00 you can ask for the reaming balance in cash and they are required to give it to you.
New Jersey got this one right
I have not been a fan of what New Jersey legislators have done with gift card laws. I'm happy to say they got this one right. Here is why:
- $5.00 is a reasonable threshold and strikes a good balance between gift card issuers and gift card holders. It's also easy for everyone to understand.
- By requiring a gift card to be redeemed at least once, they prevent the possibility of a gift card never being redeemed and the merchant being forced into giving cash back. This just seems fair to me.
What to if a merchant refuses to gift you cash back
It's bound to happen: a consumer will request cash back for a gift card and the merchant will refuse. If this happens to you, do not worry and do not get overly angry. Here are some tips.
- Ensure your gift card is eligible for cash back. (See requirements above)
- Find out if the merchant is aware of current New Jersey gift card law
- Ask to speak to a manger
If all else fails, your next option is to contact the Attorney General for New Jersey and file a complaint. My intuition tells me if a merchant refuses to give you cash back, it's because they are unaware of the changes to New Jersey's gift card laws.