Did you know that gift cards you receive for charitable or promotional purposes are allowed to expire? The rules and laws around gift cards can get a little confusing. To help clear things up, here are two instances when your gift card can expire.
Question: I won a gift card as a prize that entitled me to a free tub of ice cream. The card has an expiry date on it. I thought gift cards aren’t allowed to expire?
Answer: In this situation, because the gift card was a prize (issued for a promotional purpose) the card is allowed to expire according to the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation. As long as the business indicates when/how the card can be used on the card itself or in the receipt that comes with it, they can set their own policies for the card when it is sold or issued for a promotional purpose.
Question: I went to a silent auction for a charity and bought a gift card that was donated by a restaurant about a year ago. I forgot I had the card and tried to go to the restaurant, but they said it had expired. Is that allowed?
Answer: In this situation, because the gift card was sold for a charitable purpose, it is allowed to expire. As long as the business indicates when/how the card can be used on the card itself or in the receipt that comes with it, they can set their own policies for the card when it is sold or issued for a charitable purpose.
There are other situations where gift cards can expire. Check out our gift card infographic available on one of our blog posts to help clear things up even further. For more detailed information about what types of gift cards are allowed to expire and are exempt from the “expiry date prohibition”, take a look at this section of the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation.
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70 thoughts on “Wait…I thought gift cards can’t expire?”
What about if the restaurant changed its name?
Hi Emily, thank you for your question! Did the restaurant change its ownership? Contacting the restaurant asking them directly if they still honour the gift card is probably a good first step. If the restaurant did change the ownership, our law does not speak to the specific details on whether the new business should accept the old gift cards or not. So it is up to the discretion of the new owner. I hope this information helps!
What if I won a prize that entitled me to a service, and the certificate did NOT have an expiry date.
It’s been just over a year, would the company still need to honour the certificate by law if there is no expiry date stated on the gift certificate?
Hi Josh, because your gift card was a prize, it is allowed to expire. Check the card itself or any terms and conditions that may have come with the card but even if there’s no expiry date, the company can set their own policy. Either way it would be good to check with the business. I hope this information helps, Josh!
i want to sell a gift card for a yoga lesson, do i have to charge taxes when selling the gift card or when the customer redeems the gift card?
Hi Anna, good question! Although this is outside of the gift card regulation we oversee, it is our understanding that if a gift card is for a specific product or service (such as one yoga lesson), a consumer would have to pay taxes when purchasing the gift card. Whereas if the gift card has a dollar value ($30 or $50 worth and it’s not for a specific product or service), then a consumer would pay the taxes when redeeming the gift card. This page from Canada.ca has more information. I hope it’s helpful to you!
BC Transit has expiration dates on their Compass Tickets. If I have paid for a service, how can I be denied the face value of the ticket ? If fares were to increase , I could simply pay the difference. I would like to know why the government can “profit” from sales of these tickets in this way and why they expire ?
Hi Divender, thank you for your question. Are you referring to the Compass single use tickets? If so, that ticket does not classify as a gift card and it’s outside of the laws we are responsible for. If you are referring to the Compass Cards, they do not expire (according to the FAQ page on their website here). If you are concerned about paying for a service and being denied the value of the ticket, you may be interested in checking out the Compass Cards, as it looks like they have balance protection and the stored funds on the card do not expire. I might suggest checking out the website or contacting TransLink directly 1-888-207-4055. I hope this helps and best of luck!
I’m commenting here mostly so I can vent a little. I bought some VISA gift cards a while back to use at some later date when buying things online. I threw them in a drawer and just found them today and wanted to use them up. I didn’t open up the card when I bought it because I didn’t intend on using it right away. That was a big mistake. There is an extensive “cardholder agreement” folded up inside the cardboard envelope. Evidently, you don’t activate one of these cards as you would with the cards you get from the bank. These are activated as soon as you pay for it. They also deduct approximately 10% or more immediately as an “activation fee”. If you don’t use the card for a year, as happened with me, they begin deducting $3 per month until it’s all gone. In addition to those fees, they will charge you $1.50 per transaction. If you buy something in the US or internationally, they will charge you 2.5% in ADDITION to the exchange rate.
Isn’t this just a way to get around the law that prohibits expiry dates on gift cards? How is this legal?
Hi Glen, thanks for your question. The type of card that Puffy explains above is not considered a standard “gift card” under the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation. What these are are Prepaid Cards that are issued by a financial institution. These cards have different rules around them and they are overseen by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Here’s a bit more info on that for you: https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/payment/prepaid-cards.html#toc0.
Your more “typical” gift cards have rules around expiry dates, like you mention. Here’s a blog post we wrote with an infographic that provides an easy-to-understand overview of gift card laws in BC: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/2014/12/the-gift-of-gift-cards/.
Please let me know if you have any questions! I hope this helps!
My local gym sells 10 pass drop in cards. My husband used 5 and then stopped going over the summer. He just got an email that his remaining 5 have expired- is that allowed?
Hi Andrea, thanks for reaching out to us with your question. Gift cards are allowed to expire when they are sold for a promotional purpose. For example, if the 10 pass drop in cards are offered at a discounted or promotional rate (less than what they would charge for individual drop in rates) then the card is allowed to expire. Here’s a link to our blog post that has an infographic that explains this: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/2014/12/the-gift-of-gift-cards/. I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if you have any questions!
I am looking to buy a gift card for a general dollar value (no discounts, no specific game or session time) to a Virtual Reality Hub as a gift. The website indicates that the gift cards expire 180 days after purchase. Is that allowed?
Hi C Fraser, thanks for your question. Gift cards that are sold for a dollar value and are not for a specific service or product (and not sold as a promotion) are not allowed to expire. If you are interested in/comfortable with sharing this information with the business, you can do so by providing them with the information laid out in the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA). Here is the section that speaks to expiry dates: http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/04002_05#section56.2. We typically suggest that consumers try to work out the issue with the business directly first. If you would prefer not to do that, or if they still disagree with the law, you can give our inquiry centre a call at 1.888.564.9963 to initiate a complaint or you can do so online here: make a complaint. . Please let me know if you have any questions about the info I provided. Thanks!
Hi, I got a gift card for 1 night stay in a hotel. The card is expired since 2 weeks. Can I still use it?
Hi Patricia, thanks for your question. Gift card law can get a little tricky, so it really depends on what kind of gift card it is. Is the card for a specific dollar amount? For example, $200 dollars towards a stay at the hotel? If the card is for a specific dollar amount, it is not allowed to expire. However, if the card is simply for a stay at the hotel (with no dollar amount attached to it) it would be considered a gift card for a specific service – in which case, the card is allowed to expire.. If the card is allowed to expire, I would suggest approaching the business (if you haven’t already) and seeing how flexible they are in allowing you to use it. You may get lucky, but again, they are not obligated to honour the gift card if it was for a specific service (and there was no dollar amount attached to it). I hope this makes sense. Please let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck!
My wife and I purchased online will kits from Staples in October 2017. We lost them somehow and have now found them, only to discover the “Referral Code” has expired. They got our money and we have nothing. Is this legal? We live in British Columbia.
Hi Clay, thanks for reaching out to us here. To clarify, was this online will kit offered as a gift card? The laws we’re responsible for speak to gift cards specifically. If a gift card is for a specific good or service (like a haircut or donut from a coffee shop) it IS allowed to expire. I can’t say for sure what type of gift card you had without getting some more info from you, but I would suggest going to the business to see what they say, if you haven’t already. You may also be interested in reading the small print on the back of the gift card, as the information about the expiry may be on there and offer some additional clarity. Again, if you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is speak to the Staples (or the will kit company directly) and find out if they can honour the kit or if they’re willing to help you out with this or not. I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any questions.
I have a couple of Roots gift cards from 2004 with no printed expiry date on them. I contacted the company and was told that their new system cannot read them, so they are not valid. One has a value of $100, which is quite frustrating. We were offered a 25% discount as a consolation, which doesn’t feel like it is fair at all. Are they allowed to tell me that the card has expired if there is no date on it, and solely because they changed their system? I know the cards are old but It seems very wrong to me.
Hi Robyn, thank you for your question. Generally in BC, gift cards with a specific dollar value are not allowed to expire but if the card was issued before 2009, they can expire. Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation came into effect in BC in 2009 and that is the reason why the regulation doesn’t cover your cards from 2004. Having said that, you may want to talk to Roots again, perhaps a different person and see if you get a different answer. At this point, it’s really up to the company to honour the card or provide you with something in similar value as their customer service practice.
Thanks for your reply.
For it to expire prior to the regulations in 2009, would it have to be written somewhere within the terms (on the back) that it would expire? Is it within their rights to just say it has expired without it being written anywhere in the fine print?
Sadly, Roots seems to be ignoring me now. They’ve said they will give part of one card back on a new card, but will not for another from the same year.
Hello again! It’s our understanding that older gift cards issued before 2009 can expire without written terms and conditions – this is because the current law does not cover this issue. I hope you can contact them again and they will honour part of the gift card value. Best of luck to you, Robyn!
That’s crazy. I guess it shows a weakness in their service and company values by not honouring it.
I appreciate your responses. 🙂
I received an email from Roots with a fair response and resolution (part value). Thank you for your support!
Hi Robyn, I’m happy to hear you got the resolution you were looking for. Thanks for reaching out to us!
Hello! We sell gift cards for our activities (1, 1.5 and 2 hour trail rides). We need to put up our rates next year. Can we charge people the extra cost ($10 more a ride) for a certificate they bought at the old rate? Or must we honour them as is, even though some were purchased several years ago? Thanks!
Hi Joanne, thank you for your question! This would depend on how your gift cards are set up. Are they for one ride or two rides and the price is not listed? Or are they for specific dollar value? If the card only states that it is good for one ride, you may have to honour that no matter your price change. For different kinds of gift cards and their rules around expiry dates in BC, you can check out this blog post for more information.
Hello – I will receive a gift card for a specified dollar value as a bonus for booking a reservation at a restaurant. I will get the bonus gift card after I had my meal. The gift card will expire after 3 months. Are they allowed to expire the gift card?
Hi Kate – sounds like there is no exchange of money for the gift card you are receiving. If that is correct, this gift card is simply a promotional gift card (meaning you didn’t pay money for it) therefore, they can expire.
So I have won a gift certificate for 3 different services. Lash extentions, powder brows and microdermabrasion value of $850. 1st service was lash extensions. Asked for hybrid and only got natural. It was free so I didn’t care much. Mentioned situation to owner and she said come back for a fill and I’ll make it right. Second attempt and she denied offering me the fix. Suggested that she will honor the other 2 unused services. Or I can sell the card. I left. Sold the card. Person I sold the card to unable to book with her as she would not respond. So I messaged her trying to book for powder brow and she tells me the certificate has expired. There is no expiry date on it. So what do I do?
Hi Meagan, thanks for posting your question here. If you won your gift certificate and didn’t pay for it, the certificate doesn’t fall under BC’s gift card law. This means that the business is allowed to have an expiry date on the certificate. And, because the law doesn’t cover this type of promotional certificates, there are no rules around putting an expiry date on the certificate itself. This means that you may have to keep trying to work this out with the business owner.
I bought a 50/50 ticket and won a free lunch has a one month from now expiry date. Is this legal.
Hi Karen, thanks for reaching out to us here! In this situation, because the gift card was a prize (issued for a promotional purpose) the card is allowed to expire according to the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation. As long as the business indicates when/how the card can be used on the card itself or in the receipt that comes with it, they can set their own policies for the card when it is sold or issued for a promotional purpose. I hope this answers your question!
I would like to ask about expired Cineplex movie certificate (Admit One)
I purchased bulk of those from my work and lost a few years ago then recently found it, but expired 3 years ago.
Even though it doesn’t have a dollar amount printed, I could get new certificate with same amount the I paid. Also, Cineplex still got paid from my company for the certificates whether it’s expired or not.
Would this be still non usable?
According to their website, one page said it’s still acceptable and one page said it’s expired.
Thank you so much in advance!
Hi Min, thanks for reaching out to us here with your questions. If the gift certificate was sold for a specific good or service (ie: a movie pass) and it does not include a dollar amount, then it IS allowed to expire. I’m not sure what Cineplex’s take is on the situation, but you may be interested in reaching out to them directly to see if they would be willing to honour it or not. Again, it’s my understanding that they are under no legal obligation to do so, as the certificate is allowed to expire. That said, it may be worth a shot to ask! I hope this helps and best of luck!
Hello, I have a store credit receipt that I found from 2016. Is the store allowed to claim it has expired?
Hi Maddie, thanks for your question. If you have a gift card for a specific dollar amount – it is not allowed to expire. Thanks
I received a gift certificate for our local massage school and it reads, “one therapitic massage $40.00” and has an expiry date that is a few months from now.
In this case it specifies BOTH a service and a dollar amount, which of the rules apply to my gift?
Hi Clarissa, good question. Gift cards/certificates sold for a specific good or service are allowed to expire. If you had received a $40 gift card to use for any purpose at a store or salon or massage school, then it would not be allowed to expire. Because your gift card is for a specific service, it is allowed to expire (even if there is a value attributed to it). I hope this makes sense! Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks so much!
No problem, Clarissa! I hope it’s helpful info! Best of luck
Hi! I live in Ontario and recently I found a few gifts cards from Chapters dating back to 2005. Now that chapters is gone and it becomes indigo. What is my right with gift card from that era? If i walk into the store and they said the gift card is no longer in file, do i still have any claiming rights?
Hi Alan, great question and thanks for reaching out to us here. So you’re aware, the laws we oversee when it comes to gift cards apply to BC – I’m not totally sure what the gift card laws are in Ontario, but I would suggest contacting Consumer Protection Ontario for more information on that. In BC, gift cards purchased before 2009 are allowed to have expiry dates. It wasn’t until 2009 when the Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation came into place that prohibited certain cards from having an expiry date. I would suggest finding out what the relevant laws are in Ontario. If they are the same as here, you may want to go to Indigo anyway and see if they would be willing to honour your gift card, however (if the laws are the same as they are in BC) know they they would not be required to honour it under law. I hope this is helpful to you and best of luck.
Thank you Amanda! 🙂
A friend of mine gave me a gift certificate that they purchased at a local pub. It is for a redeemable specific cash amount at that pub, no specific items. It has an expiration date on it. I thought that is not allowed?
Hi Sue, thanks for your question. Generally speaking, gift cards that are sold for a specific dollar amount are not allowed to expire. However, there are certain situations where they are allowed to expire. For instance, if the card was sold for a charitable or promotional purpose. So, as an example, if there was a promotion that said “buy $100 worth of gift cards and receive a $25 gift card for free”, the $25 gift card is allowed to expire. Does that make sense?
I bought a gift card for a family photography session. Can that expire?
Hi David, thanks for reaching out to us here. If a gift card is for a specific good or service (one photography session) it IS allowed to expire. If it’s for a dollar amount ($100 towards photography) it is NOT allowed to expire. Please let me know if you need more info. Thanks!
I got a salon gift certificate as a gift a month ago and used it today. After my treatment, I was told that, since their prices increased, I would have to pay the difference. Is this legal? Thank you.
Hi Dawn, I think we need more info from you. Would you mind contacting our inquiry centre so we can understand what happened a little better? Our phone number here is 1.888.564.9963. Thanks!
I have a Cineplex Movie gift certificate that says it expired in 2018 , it’s for an adult admission. Can they actually expire ? Or do they have to honour it ? Thanks
Hi Natalie, thank you for asking a question here! It the gift card says it’s for one adult admission and it has no dollar value, it can expire. Whereas if the card says $20 or $30, it cannot expire. I hope this clarifies things for you!
I received a store credit card (no expiry noted) for $145 at French Connection which is “only redeemable at French Connection stores within Canada”. It seems they are still operational but have exited the Canadian market – do I have any residual claim?
Hi Joan, thank you for contacting us! When you say “store credit card”, do you mean in-store credit you received when you returned an item? If so, companies are allowed to set their own policies when it comes to return/refund/exchange. This means that if they are only allowing people to use this kind of card in brick and mortar stores, you may not have recourse. Having said that, I would encourage you to still contact French Connection by phone or email and see if they are able to honour it on their online store. I hope you will be able to work it out with them!
I received some jewelry from my mom and returned the item for a handwritten credit with no expiry date. It’s been 3 years since I claimed it and now the owners will not let me redeem it. They said that they bought the business from the previous owner and will not honour it because it was too long ago. The name of the store is exactly the same and I’m assuming it’s the same business license. Is there anything I can do?
Hi Kim, retail stores in BC are allowed to set their own return/refund/exchange policies so they are not obliged to provide you with store credit without an expiry date. The only thing you can do is to go back to the business and negotiate – if they would be able to honour a reduced amount or whatever the case may be. I hope you will be able to work something out with them. Good luck!
I was given a gift certificate for a one-night stay in a specific hotel in their top-tier room. The person who gave the certificate to me also gave me the receipt, which was $406. Because it is for a service, I understand the expiry date is valid. The certificate has restrictions on it (not to be used on a Friday or Saturday night or on a long weekend). When I look online, the rooms of that tier during high season are only $249. I don’t know if the rates have dropped (due to COVID perhaps?), but it seems unfair to me that they can pocket the difference. Is this legal? And are the restrictions on when it can be used fair if full price (or more) was paid?
Hi Claire, thank you for reaching out to us. You are correct that your gift card can have an expiry date as it’s for one night stay and not for a dollar value. In terms of the difference in value, we are not able to provide any information because the law doesn’t touch on this issue. You may want to contact the hotel directly and see they will be able to offer any explanation and negotiate. I hope you will be able to sort this out with them!
I’m from alberta and I booked a hotel back in March last year for victoria and had to cancel due to COVID restrictions back than. They gave me a gift certificate for exactly $636.84. That’s what I paid for but the gift certificate has and expiry date on it and I tried to book with them back in October and December but they didn’t respond until today. Is that allowed? Can they have an expiry date on it?
Hi Ryan, thank you for getting in touch with us. We have some information on this exact issue on this page of our website. Please read through the first two drop-down menu content and fill out the form. If you have any further issues, please feel free to contact us. Thank you, Ryan!
Hi. I got a “Visa Reward” card as a promotional for a Vancouver hotel stay – $75. I thought “gift cards” didn’t expire so I didn’t pay attention to the expiry date. It is a Visa product, has a specific $ amount but also has an expiry date which passed 2 months ago. Have I lost my $75?
Hi Sean, thanks for contacting us. Visa gift cards or reward cards are not considered traditional gift cards that fall under consumer protection laws we administer. Having said that, prepaid credit cards should not expire so you may want to contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. They have more information. One thing I noticed is that you mentioned “promotional” – does it mean you got the card for free and there was no money transaction? If so the cards may be allowed to expire. We have more information on that on our blog here.
I was given a gift card for 200 minutes in a tanning bed in 2019. The gift card has no expiry date printed on it. Due to COVID I didn’t use the gift card because I wasn’t traveling (which is what I use tanning minutes for) plus tanning salons were shut down etc. I got in touch with the business in November 2021 to inquire about the gift certificate and the manager never got back to me but the receptionist said their new gift certificates have expiry dates so she wasn’t sure if they would honour mine even though it was an expensive tanning package. What are my rights in this situation?
Hi Rebecca, thanks for reaching out to us here. Gift cards with a dollar value ($100 to a spa) are not allowed to expire. However, gift cards for a specific good or service (200 minutes to a tanning bed), are allowed to expire. This information should be made available to you when you purchased the gift card (it could be on the receipt) or in the terms and conditions if you purchased it online. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can check out this page here: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/consumer-help/consumer-information-gift-cards/. I hope this helps and best of luck!
What is the rule on packages? If you buy a package of services (5 massages for a discounted price, for example) can the package expire?
Hey Crystal, thanks for your question. Gift cards bought as part of a business promotion or at a discount are allowed to expire in BC. You can learn more about BC’s gift card laws on our website. I hope this helps!
What if I have a gift card that has a dollar amount, but the business only offers one single service so can’t be used for anything but that service?
Hey Mel, thanks for the question. Gift cards for a dollar amount cannot expire in BC, even if the business only offers one service. I hope this helps!