The trouble with gift cards

They're a great last-minute Christmas present, but gift cards can be a waste of money.
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01.Gift card grief


While gift cards make a convenient present, they have been the subject of numerous complaints to CHOICE over the years.

Since we first looked at gift cards that quickly stop giving, people have continued to contact us with stories of cashed-up plastic that has ended up worthless. 

In this article you'll find: 

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Not so easy

About $1.5 billion worth of gift cards were purchased in 2009/10. About three in four participants in a November 2010 CHOICE survey told us they’d received at least one gift card in the past 12 months, with a similar proportion giving one as a present in the same period. More than half experienced the biggest pitfall of gift cards – it expired before they were able to use its full value. 

Under regulations in the US, gift cards must have an expiry date of at least five years. Under those regulations, good disclosure of pitfalls such as fees is also mandatory. 

In Australia, unfair contracts legislation can be used to take action against particularly unfair terms and conditions for gift cards. To share your story, please email us at or leave a comment.

Short changed

In late 2011 the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC), and released an issues paper that highlighted the problems in th gift card industry. And nothing's really changed in the $1.5 billion gift card industry since then. 

Back in November 2010, we found that most gift cards expire after one year. 

At the time, Bunnings offered the only card with no expiry date. Bunnings has now been joined by Toys R Us, EB Games and IKEA (Perth and Adelaide stores) in offering gift cards with no expiry date.

We welcome these changes, but most gift cards still run out too soon and can have hidden fees, charges and conditions.

"We know from the anger and frustration of consumers who try to get redress that new laws are needed," CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey says.


Do you suspect you have ever received a re-gifted present?
Have you ever re-gifted a present?
If yes, what is it that you re-gifted?


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