Get rid of expiry dates on gift cards


Did a kindly relative give you a gift card for Christmas? If you enjoy shopping, then a shop card or voucher provides the double pleasure of receiving a pressie on the day and of later choosing an item that is exactly what you want.

But have you also found a forgotten gift card lurking in your pile of papers-to-deal-with-someday, and discovered that it was past its use by date, hence worthless?  If you assume these cards are like cash and not time limited, then you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.  The actual expiry terms vary from company to company, and are often overlooked, so you can easily be caught out.

If your card has expired then your relative will have made a gift to the company instead of to you, which is not what they intended. In 2013 some £4 billion was spent on gift cards, and a sizable proportion of those were not redeemed.

This Christmas Lorely Burt, the Lib Dem Business spokesperson, has called on the Government to put an end to the practice of placing expiry dates on gift cards. She says:

Millions of people will receive gift cards over Christmas, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to brave the January Sales to redeem them.  Expiry times vary, and often by the time you want to redeem your card it has expired.

There is no good reason for gift cards to have time limited expiration dates- it purely benefits the store, not the customer, who may be waiting for the right product before spending the gift.  Getting rid of expiration dates on gift cards would be a welcome gift this Christmas from stores to their customers.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Thomas Shakespeare 28th Dec '15 - 9:48am

    Do you ever feel that we’re a small party pretending we’re still a big one? This a wouldnt-it-be-nice-if campaign not a pressing matter. Shouldn’t we be focusing our time, energy & media coverage on the big national issues (housing, refugee crisis, EU etc) and campaigning on local issues instead?

  • Yes

  • Richard Underhill 28th Dec '15 - 11:18am

    I got a long service award from an employer. There was a choice of retailers, from which I deduced that the employer had been able to buy the vouchers at a discount. The retailer would profit from the sale/s being tied, which also enabled them to dictate prices. I chose Marks and Spencers, which does give change in the form of less valuable vouchers, printed at the till. I bought milk on my way home over several weeks.
    Retailers also use these cards as compensation. Recently a supermarket sent me a card in the post with an apology that their olive bread had contained an olive stone which could have damaged our teeth. i do not know whether it was time-limited. I did use it promptly.
    I doubt that retailers would agree to entirely abolish these time limits because they would have problems with year end accounts, not knowing what might be redeemed and what had been destroyed. They could give prominent warnings. They could allow longer time limits before expiry.
    Why should any pragmatic customer buy these things instead of just writing a cheque? Do they double up as Christmas cards or birthday cards? Does the donor prefer that the redemption value is not too obvious?

  • Russell Simpson 28th Dec '15 - 5:55pm

    Ever since I got HMV and Jessops gift cards for Christmas a few years ago I’ve only bothered with BoE vouchers!

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Dec '15 - 2:51am

    I agree with Lorely Burt – get rid of gift card expiration dates!

  • If they didn’t have expiry dates the liability for retailers would build up over time and they would have to sit on ever larger cash reserves to cover it. Is that a good enough reason to expire them? Not sure.

    Not that I would ever give or want to receive a gift voucher. If you don’t know what to buy someone give them cash. It’s a lot more flexible and has no expiration!

  • Matt (Bristol) 29th Dec '15 - 10:42am

    removing expiration dates effectively creates an alternative currency with the retailers as banks. So no.

  • David Evershed 30th Dec '15 - 4:35pm

    Cash has no expiry date – so give that as a gift if you don’t like expiry dates.

    Lorely Burt’s suggestion to introduce unnecessary legislation is not a liberal approach. We want business to be free to trade as they wish unless there is a good reason why not. In this case people are already free to choose a competitive product with no exiry date, cash.

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