Beginning today, August 22, 2010, the money you place on a gift card sold in the U.S. can no longer expire within 5 years and post-sale fees can not be charged unless the gift card has been inactive for at least 1 year. Furthermore, only one fee per month may be charged.
These new federal gift card laws have been a long time coming (15 months). Consumers in every state will benefit, even those living in a state like California which has some of the best consumer protection for gift cards; that's because state gift card laws typically do not cover bank issued gift cards (think Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover logos). While these gift cards can be used just about anywhere, their flexibility comes at a price: purchase fees, maintenance fees, replacement fees and expiration dates.
Thankfully, bank issued gift cards are specifically covered under the new federal gift card laws. It's the one aspect of the Credit CARD Act of 2009's legislation pertaining to gift cards which will have the widest impact for consumers. Taking a look at ScripSmart's bank issued gift card reviews, you'll see many are considered 'Buyer Beware'. These gift cards receive low Gift Card Scores™ due to fees, expiration dates, and 'valid-thru' dates.
Card issuers are going to change policies and we're anxious to fully analyze the impact the new federal gift card laws have on bank issued gift cards. So far we've seen mixed results; however, the overall changes appear to be positive for consumers.
For more information on how your state is impacted, see ScripSmart's quick summary of how state gift card law compares to the new federal gift card law.