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Gift certificates are a popular option for many gift-givers during the holiday season. From nail salons, to restaurants, to grocery stores, gift certificates can be used just about anywhere.

If your go-to gift this year is a gift certificate, remember these rules:

  • Gift certificates bought in Massachusetts are valid for seven years and are not subject to any fees.
  • Generally, bank issued cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.) that are redeemable at different mercshutterstock_534171301hant locations fall under federal law, which means they’re valid for five years. Bank issued cards may also have certain fees, including fees for activation, replacement, inactivity, and others. These fees must be properly disclosed so it’s important consumers look for them.
  • Certificates not clearly marked with an expiration date and issuance date must have those dates clearly printed on the sales receipt, or available on line. If the dates are not provided, the gift certificate is good forever.
  • Once you have used 90% of the value and you can’t add value, you may choose to take the remaining value in cash or spend the remaining value of the gift certificate.
  • If the gift card or certificate is of the kind which value can be added to it and the balance is $5.00 or less, the holder can add value or request to receive the balance of $5.00 or less in cash.
  • Gift cards are not prepaid cards, debit cards, or credit cards, though they may look similar.

Remember: Massachusetts law defines electronic cards with a banked dollar value as gift certificates, even if they are technically gift cards. The same rules that govern gift certificates apply to gift cards.

This post is part of our “Holiday Shopping” series, bringing you timely information as you shop this holiday season.  For more information on your shopping rights, click here.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s  Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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