Gift Cards

The Consumer Affairs Branch offers a variety of educational information and tools to assist consumers.

Buying a Gift Card

  • Know what type of card you want:
    • Retail gift cards can be used only at a specific business or restaurant.
    • Bank gift cards can be used at any location that accepts cards from that bank network.   
  • Buy directly from a business or bank. Avoid online auction or classified ad sites, where the cards may have been stolen or counterfeited. Be cautious about buying gift cards from a business in financial trouble; a company in bankruptcy may not be able to honor its cards. 
  • Review the card’s terms and conditions before you buy to make sure the card’s a good value. For example, are there activation and/or transaction fees? What’s the issuer’s responsibility if the card’s lost?  Does the card have an expiration date?  
  • Gift cards issued by Virginia merchants must include certain disclosures. If the card doesn’t include an expiration date and/or will diminish in value over time, it must include a telephone number or internet address where you can learn more about the card’s expiration and valuation.
  • As a result of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, effective August 22, 2010, gift cards cannot incur inactivity fees unless they’re inactive for at least a 12-month period. Look for issuers to compensate for these lost dormancy fees by introducing new fees, like a charge to inquire about the card’s remaining balance.
  • Inspect the card before your buy it. Reject the card if protective stickers are missing or if PINs are exposed. These are signs of tampering.
  • Register the gift card online if the service is offered.
  • Keep your receipt and any paperwork associated with the purchase. You may need it later in case the card is lost or stolen. If you are giving the card as a gift, give both the card and the paperwork.

Using a Gift Card

  • Use gift cards promptly to minimize fees and avoid the chance of misplacing them.
  • A gift card is like cash with one possible exception. If it’s lost or stolen, you may be able to get a replacement if it is reported promptly to the issuer and you can document the purchase and provide the card’s ID number.
  • If you have a problem with a gift card, contact the company or bank that issued it and have your paperwork available when you call. Most companies will have a toll-free number or internet address for questions and complaints.
  • If you’re unable to resolve a gift-card problem with a retail issuer, contact the Federal Trade Commission or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). If the gift card was issued by a bank, contact the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group or call toll-free 1-800-613-6743.

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Office: 703-222-8435 (8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday)
Fax: 703-653-1310

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