Unfortunately, it’s extremely common for gift cards and gift certificates to be partially used, lost, or even forgotten about. Does the gift card vendor get to keep these funds, or are they escheated to the state? Are gift cards subject to unclaimed property laws?
May 29, 2022
~5 min read
Most people don’t realize it, but lost gift card balances are a real problem. Every year, millions of dollars in gift card balances go unclaimed. This is because many people lose their cards or forget about them. Others simply have a balance remaining on their card that they can’t use. Whatever the reason, lost gift card balances are a real issue.
Claiming abandoned gift card balances
Lost gift card balances are a common problem, but fortunately, there are a few things you can do to try and reclaim them if you find yourself in this situation.
First, you should check with the vendor or gift card issuer directly to see if they have any policies in place for lost or forgotten cards and inquire about claiming your lost balance. Many vendors will replace lost cards or offer refunds for the remaining balance. In general, it’s best practice for businesses to have a gift card terms and conditions policy that outlines what will happen to lost or forgotten balances. This can help avoid customer complaints and disputes down the road.
If the vendor does not have a policy in place, ask them whether or not your gift card is subject to unclaimed property laws. If so, you may be able to claim your lost balance through the unclaimed property office in the state where the card was purchased.
Each state has their own unclaimed property office and different procedures for claiming unclaimed property. If you aren’t sure what the unclaimed property laws are in your state, you can contact your state’s unclaimed property office for more information. To find the correct contact information for your state’s unclaimed property office, you can check the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website.
Once you reach the appropriate office, you can see if they have any record of your lost gift card. If they do, they will usually be able to help you claim your lost balance. You’ll need to provide your name, contact information, and the gift card number. You may also be required to provide proof of purchase to prove that you are the rightful owner of the funds, such as a copy of the gift card, a receipt, or a bank statement. If the claim is approved, the state will issue a check for the balance of the lost gift card.
Finally, you can also try contacting the credit card company that issued the card. If the card was purchased with a credit card, you may be able to get a refund for the remaining balance.
Lost gift card balances can be a pain, but hopefully one of these methods works for you to reclaim them.
What happens to unclaimed gift card funds?
If you’re unable to claim the balance of a lost, forgotten, or partially used gift card, you may be wondering what will happen to that money and whether or not the vendor gets to keep the remaining balance.
The answer is that it depends.
According to a 2018 report by PULSE, a network of more than 3,700 debit issuers, there was approximately $1 billion in unredeemed gift cards as of December 2017. And while most people assume that lost or forgotten gift cards mean free money for businesses, many states have laws in place that protect consumers from losing their hard-earned money.
In some states, if a gift card is considered abandoned or unclaimed property and subject to unclaimed property laws. Unclaimed property includes any type of abandoned or lost property that has no active owner, which could include gift cards, depending on applicable state law.
If the gift card is not subject to unclaimed property laws, then the vendor may be able to keep the funds. However, if there are unclaimed property laws in place that cover gift cards, then the vendor may have to escheat the funds to the state.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2018, 43 states have unclaimed property laws that cover gift cards. These laws can apply to any type of gift card, including store-specific cards, general purpose cards, and electronic cards. However, all 50 states have unclaimed property laws that may apply to gift cards.
Most unclaimed property laws require businesses to report and remit abandoned or lost property, including gift cards, to the state. This is done in order to protect consumers and ensure that the funds are returned to them if they are ever found.
These laws typically state that if a consumer does not use or claim their gift card within a certain period of time (known as the “dormancy period”), the balance on the card may be considered abandoned property, requiring the business to report the abandoned balance and turn it over to the state’s unclaimed property division. The amount of time known as the “dormancy period” varies from state to state, but is generally between one and five years. Additionally, some states exempt small value balances from escheatment while others do not.
The state will then hold onto the funds until the rightful owner claims them. In some cases, the state may try to contact the owner of the gift card directly in order to return the funds. However, if the owner cannot be located, the state will keep the funds indefinitely.
To avoid having your gift card balance claimed by your state, be sure to use it within the specified time frame. You can also keep track of your gift cards by registering them with the issuer or keeping them in a safe place.
If you think you may have lost or forgotten about a gift card, it’s always worth checking the state unclaimed property website to see if the funds have been reported. You may be surprised to find that you have money waiting for you!
There are many factors to take into account when it comes to unclaimed property laws and abandoned gift card balances. It’s important to be aware of these laws in case you find yourself in a situation where you have a lost or forgotten gift card. By understanding the laws and knowing where to go for help, you can ensure that you don’t miss out on any money that is rightfully yours.