Did you know certain cards are not included in BC’s gift card law? In this blog post, we’ll show you how to figure out if your card is a regular retail gift card (which we oversee) or a general use prepaid card (which are regulated federally), and tell you where to go if you need help. Sound a bit confusing? It can be so read on for more information.

First things first, it’s important to know that there are different kinds of gift cards. There are what you would typically think of as a gift card (such as a gift card/certificate to a specific store or restaurant), and mall cards (a gift card that you would get at a mall that can be used at any of the mall’s stores). We call those retail gift cards. There are also pre-loaded cards that are associated with a bank and are often branded with the name of a payment network such as American Express, MasterCard or Visa. Let’s call those general use prepaid cards.

What is a retail gift card?

Consumer Protection BC looks after BC’s gift card law (called the Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation). This law covers such topics as expiry dates (cards for specific services can expire, but cards for a general dollar amount cannot), when fees can be charged (for replacing a lost or stolen card, for example), and what information has to be provided to the purchaser such as any limitations on use. We have more information about BC’s gift card law.

What is a general use prepaid card?

Things may start to get a bit murky as I turn to general use “prepaid cards”. These fall under Canada’s Prepaid Payment Products Regulations which we don’t oversee.

Let’s recap, at a very high level, these are cards that are:

  • Issued by federally-regulated financial institutions (such as a bank) and,
  • Preloaded with funds, and can be used to make purchases or cash withdrawals through a payment network (like American Express, MasterCard or Visa).

It gets a little confusing because these cards are not included in BC’s gift card law (they’re overseen by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada), but you can usually also find them in places where you might normally buy a retail gift card such as in the checkout line at your local grocery store.

How do I tell which type of card I have?

The number one way to tell whether you have a retail gift card or a general use prepaid card is to turn the card over – is there a name of an issuing institution (such as a bank, trust or loan company) on the back? If there is, you likely have a prepaid card that falls under the federal Prepaid Payment Products Regulations (which is overseen by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada). If there isn’t, you may have a card that falls under the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation (which we oversee).

We hope you found this information helpful!


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The gift of gift cards
Good news for consumers: new laws in effect for prepaid cards
Frequently asked questions – Financial Consumer Agency of Canada