NYS DiNapoli Controller: Spend Your Holiday Gift Cards

   

$16 million in unused cards turned into office in 2021

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is urging New Yorkers to spend the gift cards they received this holiday season in a timely manner. Otherwise, the money could possibly be turned over to the Office of Unclaimed Funds. Over the past seven years, the amount returned to DiNapoli’s office in unused gift cards has risen sharply, from $5.8 million in 2014 to $16 million in 2021.

“Missing your gift cards after the holiday season is easy to do,” DiNapoli said. “Don’t wait too long to spend your gift cards to avoid possible inactivity fees or the money being returned to my office as forfeited funds.”

After five years of inactivity, money from unused gift cards issued by New York businesses is returned to the Office of Unclaimed Funds as forfeited property.

DiNapoli urges recipients to read the fine print for details on the fees and expiration dates of the cards they received and to register the card with the retailer. Under the Federal Credit Card Accountability and Disclosure Act of 2009, many types of gift cards sold after August 22, 2010 are not permitted to charge an inactivity fee unless the card is inactive for at least 12 months. Gift cards cannot expire within the first five years of purchase.

Currently, state law provides that gift cards cannot be subject to a monthly service charge on the balance until two years or the 25th month of inactivity. Starting December 2022, with some exceptions, state law will eliminate fees and expiration dates for gift cards.

New York requires companies offering rebates to disclose whether they will be issued in the form of a gift card and whether fees will apply to those cards. Not all discount cards are covered by the same rules as regular gift cards, so this disclosure helps consumers identify the different cards and how they can be used.

Gift cards may have other terms and conditions which may decrease the value. These may include: A service charge when purchasing the card; Dormant fees if the gift card is not used within a certain period; Charges to call and check the remaining balance on the card; and Replacement Fees for Lost or Stolen Gift Cards.

DiNapoli’s office currently holds over $17 billion in unclaimed funds. He urges New Yorkers to visit www.osc.state.ny.us to see if they are owed any money.

Michael N. Clark