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Gift card campaign - Drop the Dates

More than 70 percent of us regularly buy gift cards. They’re the go-to option for shopping dilemmas. But strict expiry dates mean many consumers are getting stuck with cards they can’t redeem. The amount being lost is likely to add up to millions of dollars every year.

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Our latest survey found one in five gift card recipients had been left empty-handed after the card expired before they could redeem its full value. Based on the typical gift card value, we estimate consumers could be losing $10 million annually.

In response to our campaign, retailers have begun to drop or extend their expiry dates.

Windfall profits

Gift cards may be a quick fix for the last-minute shopper. But unfair expiry dates mean they can be little more than a gift to the retailer.

Of 60 cards we looked at, more than half expired after just 12 months. The meanest gift card was Ticketek’s: it runs out after a measly six months.

When a card expires, the retailer keeps any remaining money. Of the 20 percent of gift card users who’ve been stuck with an expired card, more than half had more than $20 left on the card. Ten percent lost more than $60.

Retailers are coy about revealing how much they earn from unredeemed cards. But company accounts reveal gift card income is typically calculated on the assumption a percentage of shoppers will never spend all the money on the card.

Paper Plus, which has 12-month expiry dates on its gift cards, provides for a “non-redemption allowance” in its accounts.

Ticketmaster, which also has a 12-month expiry date, recognises income from gift cards based on the amount “the customer is reasonably assured not to redeem”.

Few retailers publish actual figures on the proportion of cards not used before they expire. Of those that do, non-redemption rates are between five and 10 percent. Across a multi-million-dollar industry, that adds up to a tidy sum.

Changing the game

Retailers gain significant benefits from gift card sales. They get payment in advance. They also have the prospect of further sales when the card is used: retail sales data show customers who redeem gift cards often spend more than the value of the card.

But it’s hard to find a good reason why retailers need to impose expiry dates on the cards. Some companies, including hardware store Bunnings and menswear retailer Barkers, don’t use them.

Gift card expiry dates have been given the boot elsewhere. Most Canadian provinces have banned expiry dates. Ireland is planning to follow. Gift cards in the US are required to have an expiry date of at least five years. Since the law change, the proportion of cards not redeemed has reportedly dropped from 10 to less than one percent.

The majority of Kiwi consumers want the rules changed here too. Our survey found 54 percent of those who had a view thought gift cards should have no expiry date; 13 percent thought if there was a date, it should be up to five years.

Support our campaign

We’re calling on retailers to end unfair expiry dates on gift cards.

We’ve written to the 10 major brands below, asking them to lead the way and ditch the expiry dates on their cards.

  • Briscoes
  • Countdown
  • Kathmandu
  • New World
  • Noel Leeming
  • Paper Plus
  • Prezzy Card
  • Ticketek
  • Toyworld
  • Westfield

If companies don’t lift their game, we want the Fair Trading Act amended to make imposing expiry dates on gift cards an unfair practice.

Add your voice to our campaign and help us get change.

Send a letter

If you’ve been left with a worthless card, use this email template to ask the retailer to drop its unfair expiry date.

Drop the dates

As a customer of your store, I’m writing to ask you to remove the expiry dates on your gift cards.

Along with many other consumers, I think these dates are unfair. Every time one of your gift cards expires before it’s fully redeemed, a customer misses out.

Some retailers offer gift cards with no expiry dates. Do the right thing and drop the dates on your cards.

Yours sincerely

[Insert name]

Gift card expiry dates

Retailer Gift card expiry date – at campaign launchGift card expiry date – now
Ticketek6 months6 months – change pending
AvantiPlus12 months12 months
Babycity12 months12 months – change pending
Baby Factory12 monthsNone
Bendon Lingerie12 months12 months
Bike Barn12 monthsNone
The Body Shop12 months24 months
Booksellers12 months12 months
Briscoes12 months12 months
Countdown12 monthsNone
Event Cinemas12 months12 months
Farro Fresh12 monthsNone
Four Square12 months24 months
Freedom Furniture12 months12 months
Hallensteins12 monthsNone
Hannahs 12 monthsFive years
Hoyts Cinemas12 months12 months
Hunting & Fishing12 months12 months – change pending
Just Jeans 12 months12 months
Kathmandu12 monthsNone
KBB Music12 months24 months
Macpac12 monthsNone
Max Fashions 12 months24 months
Michael Hill12 monthsThree years
Mobil Oil 12 months12 months
New World12 months24 months
New Zealand Rockshop12 months24 months
Noel Leeming12 monthsNone
Pak’nSave12 months24 months
Paper Plus12 months12 months
Pharmacy Gift Card12 months12 months
Prezzy Card12 months12 months
Rebel Sport12 months12 months
Repco12 months12 months
Restaurant Association12 months12 months
Shoe Clinic12 monthsFive years
Smiggle12 months12 months
Smiths City 12 months12 months
Stevens12 months after last use24 months
Stirling Sports12 months12 months
Taxi Card (Blue Bubble)12 months12 months
Ticketmaster12 months12 months
Toyworld12 months24 months
Westfield Shopping Centres 12 months12 months
Z Energy12 months24 months
Number One Shoes15 months from date of purchase or last useFive years
Jaycar Electronics18 months18 months
David Jones 24 months24 months
Farmers24 months24 months
Gardening New Zealand24 months24 months
Harvey Norman 24 months24 months
JB Hi-Fi24 months24 months
Kmart24 months24 months
Mitre 1024 months24 months
Palmers Gardenworld24 months24 months
Spotlight24 months (12 months for e-gift cards)24 months (12 months for e-gift cards)
Whitcoulls24 months24 months
The Warehouse24 months after last use24 months after last use
Glassons Five yearsFive years
Apple StoreNoneNone
BarkersNoneNone
BunningsNoneNone
EB GamesNoneNone
Foot LockerNoneNone
Mighty ApeNoneNone
Pumpkin PatchNoneNone

GUIDE TO THE TABLE GIFT CARD EXPIRY DATE – AT CAMPAIGN LAUNCH was sourced in August 2016 from company publications and call centres. GIFT CARD EXPIRY DATE – NOW updated 8 November 2016.

Gift card facts

  • 77 percent of consumers regularly receive gift cards.

  • $50 to $70 is the most common gift card value.

  • 24 percent of gift card users are stuck with a card they can’t fully redeem because it’s expired or the store has gone out of business.

  • 55 percent of shoppers unable to redeem a gift card had more than $20 still unspent.

  • 50 percent of gift card users have experienced problems with their card including finding it hard to check the balance, only being able to use the card at a limited number of stores and struggling to find something to buy.

OUR DATA are from an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1029 New Zealanders aged 18 years and over. The margin of error is +/-3.06 percent.

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Stuck with a dud?

Been stuck with a gift card you can’t redeem? Let us know. Email shortchanged@consumer.org.nz.

Gift card FAQs

The main argument used by retailers is an expiry date makes it easier to account for gift cards on their balance sheets. But it’s not a strong argument. Some retailers don’t use expiry dates, showing they can be dropped without causing problems.

Ask the retailer to honour it. Some may offer a “grace period” but this isn’t usually advertised. Let us know the retailer’s response: email shortchanged@consumer.org.nz.

While gift cards leave an electronic footprint and retailers are usually able to cancel them if they suspect misuse, terms and conditions often state the card won’t be replaced if it’s lost or stolen. Some companies say they’ll consider replacing a card if the customer’s able to provide the card number or a transaction receipt. But a fee normally applies to reissue a card.

Once a business changes hands, an unused gift card is usually worthless. The new owners are bound to honour it only if they’ve purchased the previous owner’s liabilities, which doesn’t happen often.

If you have a gift card for a shop that goes under before you can spend the money, you’ll have to register with the receiver as an “unsecured creditor”. If there’s any money left after the secured creditors have been paid, you could get something. But the chances are usually slim. When Dick Smith collapsed, gift cardholders were left with $334,578 in worthless cards.

If you bought a gift card using a credit card, you can ask your bank for a “chargeback” – a refund of the purchase price.

Ask what the expiry date is and whether there are any other conditions on the card’s use. Keep the receipt and include it with the gift card in case it’s needed as proof of purchase.

Cash – the government-issued gift card.