Gift card rules in Ontario are catching people off guard

Many people who received git cards as gifts before the pandemic put them away in their wallets or desks as many malls and stores were closed.

Some people, who will now use them in stores, are surprised when they are told their current value.

“When you get a gift card and it says it’s worth a certain amount of money, it should be worth that amount of money,” said Barry Wyner of Burlington, Ont.

Wyner said his wife received a Visa prepaid gift card for $200 about two and a half years ago and during the pandemic it was put away, but when they recently went to use the card they were shocked to know that it is current evaluate.

“When we went to the store, we found it was only $74 instead of the original $200,” Wyner said.

Wyner said he called the number on the back of the card and was told his card had expired, but he could get a replacement. This replacement card was only worth $74, however.

About three years ago, Vaughn’s Stephanie Cecchini received two mall gift cards worth $100 and $50.

During the pandemic, she decided to stay away from shopping malls, but said she had recently gone to use the cards and was also confused when told that they were both without value.

“When I called they said I had zero balance on both cards,” Cecchini said. “I saw that $2.50 was taken every month for nothing.”

Following consumer complaints, the Ontario government passed legislation 15 years ago to ban expiration dates on gift cards, but the ban does not apply to all gift cards. gifts according to their purpose.

Do gift cards expire?

Under the Ontario Gift Cards Actgift cards and gift certificates may expire if intended for spas, massages, manicures, salons or charitable purposes.

Prepaid credit cards, loyalty cards, or cards used to collect rewards are also not covered by the gift card rules.

Mall gift cards hold their value for 15 months after which a fee may apply at $2.50 per month.

Prepaid credit cards may also have activation fees, maintenance fees, or dormancy fees that are deducted monthly, 12 months after the card is purchased.

So if you have gift cards for a service or a prepaid gift card that you keep, you might want to check the fine print.

Wyner says he will never buy one as a gift for anyone.

“I think it’s very unfair,” Wyner said. “The packaging says ‘it’s the perfect gift,’ but it’s far from the perfect gift if you don’t use it.”

A survey earlier this year by Square, a payment company that tracks gift card spending, found that up to 45% of gift cards purchased were not used.

You might want to see if you have any gift cards in your desk, wallet, or purse to see if they’re still worth what you think they’re worth.

Michael N. Clark