Gift cards are a double-edged sword to me — the giftee is certain to get something they want, but they also show the exact amount you spent on them. Still, they are indispensable during the holiday season.

Most recipients don’t end up having a nightmare experience with their gift cards, but there are some unscrupulous actors out there who claim to bundle cards. These cards may be based outside the US with a business model that violates state and federal regulations. 

The regulations are pretty reasonable:

The federal CARD Act mandates:

  • No expiration dates less than five years from the date of purchase
  • No inactivity fees before 12 months from the date of purchase 

In Connecticut it is illegal for vendors to:

  • Have any expiration date
  • Charge any inactivity fees 

These Connecticut prohibitions take absolute precedence over anything written on the card.

In New York it is illegal for vendors to:

  • Have an expiration date less than five years from the date of purchase
  • Charge inactivity fees less than 25 months from the date of purchase

New Yorkers may want to get their gift cards in Connecticut for the “no inactivity fee” and “no expiration date” provisions. Gift cards are governed by the state they are sold in, so come shop in Connecticut! If today’s kids are anything like me, they will be finding gift cards with partial balances, six months — or maybe three years — from now.

If you’re unsure of the amount to put on a gift card, read our Holiday Tipping Cheat Sheet!