A gift card or gift voucher is a card loaded with an amount of cash that lets you, or the person you give it to, buy goods and services.
In NSW, most gift cards and vouchers must be sold with a minimum expiry period of 3 years to a consumer in NSW and cannot apply post-purchase administration fees. These requirements appear in the Fair Trading Act 1987 and apply to most gift cards and vouchers sold from 31 March 2018. Cards and vouchers sold before 31 March 2018 continue to have the same expiry period and applicable fees as at the time of purchase.
Three-year minimum expiry period
The law requires that most gift cards or vouchers be sold with a mandatory minimum expiry period of 3 years. The period begins from the date a gift card is sold to a consumer. Businesses can choose to apply an expiry period longer than 3 years and no maximum expiry period applies.
Ban on post-purchase fees
Once the gift card or voucher has been issued, there is a ban on charging any post-purchase fee associated with redeeming the card/voucher that would reduce its value. Terms used for post-purchase fees that are banned include: activation fees, account keeping fees, balance enquiry fees, telephone enquiry fees and fees applied when a card is inactive or not being used.
There are fees that a business can charge as part of a sale that is a cost of processing a payment. These fees apply regardless of the method of payment like overseas transaction fees, booking fees or payment surcharge fees. These are not considered post-purchase fees and are not captured by the ban. Go to our Statement of Regulatory Intent for more information.
Practical examples of how the laws apply
Gift card is purchased online or over the phone
NSW laws apply?
NSW address for delivery and NSW contact details are provided
Only a NSW contact address provided
Only a NSW delivery address provided
No contact or delivery address are provided
International websites only a NSW billing address provided
International websites only a NSW delivery address provided
Interstate contact/address details and NSW delivery details provided
NSW contact details but interstate delivery address provided
International websites any contact or delivery address provided are not in NSW
Included and excluded cards
All gift cards or vouchers sold in store or online to a consumer who is in NSW at the time of sale or sold to a consumer who provides a NSW address in connection with the sale are covered, unless specifically excluded.
These specific gift cards or vouchers are excluded from complying with the laws:
- A gift card or voucher that was sold before 31 March 2018. The terms and conditions in place at the date of purchase of those cards will continue to apply.
- A gift card or voucher that is given by a business for free to a consumer
- A gift card or voucher exchanged for goods returned to the supplier of the goods
- Prepaid cards for phone credit or internet access
- ATM cards, debit cards, credit cards or charge cards
- Gift cards supplied as part of a customer loyalty or employee rewards program
- A gift card or voucher supplied as part of a temporary marketing promotion as a bonus to the purchase of a good or service
- A gift card or voucher sold for a particular good or service that is below the market value of the good or service (a genuine discount)
- A gift card or voucher sold or donated for use in a fundraising appeal, including to a charity or not for profit organisation
- A reloadable card that uses EFTPOS, Visa or Mastercard or a similar electronic payment system
- A non- reloadable card that uses EFTPOS, Visa or Mastercard or a similar electronic payment system sold before 1 October 2018
- A gift card or voucher for a good or service available for a limited time where the card or voucher expires at the end of that period (for example, entry to a concert or museum exhibition, or a pair of shoes that is only available for a limited time)
Activation dates can be used but a consumer must have at least three years to redeem the gift card from the date of sale.
Sales to interstate visitors
If a visitor from another state or territory buys a gift card while they are in NSW and the gift card can be redeemed for goods or services in NSW, the NSW gift card laws apply to the card or voucher sold to them.
Does the retailer or supplier need to comply?
The law applies to the sale of the gift card. Generally, it’s the retailer of the gift cards that will need to comply with the reforms. It is recognised that some businesses sell their gift cards or vouchers to another business to sell on to consumers. The laws do not apply to the sale between businesses however are still enforceable when sold to a consumer. Business should work together to make sure that compliant gift cards are offered for sale. The level of responsibility applicable to other players in the supply chain will depend on the circumstances. For example, if a third-party provider supplies a gift card that is not compliant to a retailer, both the supplier and the retailer could be investigated.
Penalties for non-compliance
A breach of the laws could attract a penalty infringement notice of $550 and result in a maximum penalty of $5,500. Fair Trading has published a Statement of Regulatory Intent (PDF, 286.24 KB) that sets out our approach to compliance and enforcement.
Check the expiry date
When you receive a gift card, check the expiry date. If it's not printed on the card, ask the sales attendant to write it on there. You should also keep the receipt. You need to use the total value of the card by the expiry date as the remaining amount is usually not refundable. You can check the terms and conditions on the issuer's website or on the back of the card.
Treat them like cash
If you lose a gift card or it is stolen, in most cases you will not be able to replace it. Some retailers may replace it if you have the receipt and they can check it hasn’t been redeemed but generally they cannot be replaced so be careful and treat them as you would cash.
Replacements for lost and stolen cards
If a business chooses to replace a lost or stolen card, the law does not apply because the replacement transaction is not a sale of a new card. The terms and conditions remain the same as at the time the card was bought. For cards purchased after 31 March 2018, best practice would be for a business to issue a replacement card with the balance of the 3-year expiry period that was left on the lost or stolen card.
Read terms and conditions about getting 'change'
When purchasing something with the gift card, if stated in the terms and conditions the retailer is required to give you the rest of the money back in cash.
If the terms and conditions do not state a cash back option for your change, the retailer can insist on leaving the remaining credit on the gift card or giving you a credit note instead.
Honouring gift cards issued under the previous ownership
If the business you now own is a ‘going concern’ (able to pay its debts when they are due and continue to operate without any intention to liquidate or wind up operations for at least the next 12 months) then the business is required to honour existing gift cards purchased when the business was under previous ownership. Go to the ACCC website for more information.