New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is urging New Yorkers to spend the gift cards they received this holiday season in a timely fashion. If not, the money could eventually get turned over to the Office of Unclaimed Funds. In the last 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.
“Misplacing 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 having the money turned over to my office as lost funds.”
After five years of dormancy, money from unused gift cards issued by New York businesses is turned over to the Office of Unclaimed Funds as abandoned property.
DiNapoli urges recipients to read the fine print for details about the fees and expiration dates on any cards they received and to register the card with the retailer. Under the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, many types of retail gift cards sold after August 22, 2010 are not permitted to charge inactivity fees unless the card has been inactive for at least 12 months. Gift cards cannot expire within the first five years after purchase.
Currently, state law provides that gift cards cannot be assessed a monthly service fee against the balance prior to two years or the 25th month of inactivity. Beginning in December 2022, with a few exceptions, state law will eliminate fees and expiration dates on gift cards.
New York requires companies offering rebates to disclose whether they will be issued in the form of a gift card and whether any fees will apply to those cards. Rebate cards are not all covered by the same rules as regular gift cards, so this disclosure helps consumers to identify the different cards and how they can be used.
Gift cards may have other terms and conditions that can decrease the value. These may include:
- Service fees when the card is purchased;
- Dormancy fees if the gift card is not used within a certain time period;
- Fees to call and check the balance remaining on the card; and
- Replacement fees for lost or stolen gift cards.
DiNapoli’s office is currently holding more than $17 billion in unclaimed funds. He urges New Yorkers to visit www.osc.state.ny.us to see if they are owed money.
Track state and local government spending at Open Book New York. Under State Comptroller DiNapoli’s open data initiative, search millions of state and local government financial records, track state contracts, and find commonly requested data.