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Frustrating gift card laws to be overhauled

An expired gift card is a depressing experience. It’s also incredibly common, with the average Aussie losing $77 in the year to August on unused gift cards, according to recent analysis.

As a country, we lost a depressing $148 million. Worse, consumer group CHOICE puts the wasted amount at closer to $200 million.

But new laws could put an end to that.

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The Coalition is set to introduce national rules banning gift cards with expiration dates of less than three years, according to Fairfax Media reports. Provided they address the concerns of a subset of Liberal MPs, the laws will be in place by November 2019.

It follows similar laws passing in NSW and South Australia. Speaking to mark the NSW law in March this year, state Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean said the move was about giving consumers confidence that they are getting value for money when they purchase gift cards.

“These reforms put consumers first by mandating a minimum three-year expiry date for all gift cards sold in NSW,” Kean said.

Commenting on the NSW reform, spokesperson for CHOICE, Tom Godfrey said the extended usage allowances are a win for consumers.

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“Unfortunately unfair expiry dates on gift cards cost consumers a small fortune each year.

“While a gift card might seem like a convenient and simple fix to your shopping dilemma, in reality you’re often buying tricky terms and conditions your loved one will have to comply with,” Godfrey said.

Continuing, he noted that gift cards are a guaranteed win for retailers who have inflation and low redemption rates on their side.

“The least these companies can do is offer a product that’s fair, including a minimum expiry with no sneaky fees.”

How can I get the most value from my gift card?

CHOICE suggested shoppers try to find gift cards with the longest expiry date possible, or ones which don’t have an expiry date at all.

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It also warned about retailers with minimum spend amounts, especially if change isn’t given as this could lead to annoying dollars left on the card.

When buying gifts, CHOICE suggested buyers consider gift cards that can be used at groups of stores, like Coles & Myer cards, or Wish (Woolworths) gift cards.

Even better, shopping centre cards can be used in a wider variety of stores. However, buyers should be aware that not all retailers will accept them.

EFTPOS and MasterCard or Visa gift cards are another option.