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Do Gift Cards Expire? Here’s What to Know

A person hands a gift card to another person.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Maybe you got a gift card this holiday season and aren’t sure what to spend it on. Maybe during your new year cleanout, you found one you’d forgotten about. Either way, you might be wondering how long gift cards last.

Surprisingly, gift cards last way longer than you might have thought. On average, they’ve got a five-year last span, but there are a few caveats.

According to federal law, gift cards are required to be good for up to five years after the date of activation, so if it was activated when purchased the countdown began. The law covers both merchant gift cards (the ones from specific retailers and restaurants) as well as bank and network gift cards (like VISA and Discovery cards). There is a bit of fine print, though.

Amazon Gift Card

Need to get someone a present? Everyone loves gift cards.

After a year of inactivity, a gift card can start “charging” fees for inactivity. Essentially, there’s a fee assessed to the card in question each month, and over time, that lowers its balance. Fees vary from card to card, so it’s difficult to know when a balance might be fully charged off. Those fees, however, do have to be disclosed to the user in advance—think about the fine print or the agreement you agree to when activating it.

So if you’re not sure how to spend your gift card quite yet, you’ve got up to five years to do so, but really, you should be using it within the first 12 months. Hey, if you need some purchasing ideas, we’ve got some product ideas you can check out.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Assignments Editor at LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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