Is It Illegal for Gift Cards to Expire in Maine?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
One of the most popular items in the United States to give during holidays, birthdays, and other key life events is a gift card. A gift card can come in many different forms. Some gift cards are brand specific, some are temporary debit cards, and others come from a specific restaurant or business. When you give someone a gift card, you want to be sure they can use that gift at their leisure. So, is it illegal for gift cards to expire in Maine?
Under Maine Law, Gift Cards Cannot Have an Expiration Date
According to Maine.gov, no matter the type of business, if a gift card or gift certificate is issued in Maine, it cannot have an expiration date. Some nationwide retailers and distributors of gift cards have disputed this over the past few years, but those disputes have almost universally gone in favor of the consumer.
If You Don't Use Your Specific Gift Card Within Two Years, It Could Become Unclaimed Property
One headache for businesses who distribute gift cards and certificates is the unclaimed property rule. If a business distributes $250,000 or more of gift cards each year, the business is required to keep track of those gift cards and their usage. If an individual doesn't use their gift card from that business within 2 years, the business must turn over the value of that gift card to the state of Maine as unclaimed property. It doesn't mean you can't use that gift card after 2 years, but it can lead to extensive headaches for smaller businesses.
Can I Reclaim My Gift Card if I Didn't Use It Within 2 Years?
In most cases, businesses don't assign a name when distributing gift cards. Ultimately, if there isn't a specific right to ownership of a gift card, the value of it is lost to the state of Maine after the two-year window. One condition to the rule is that if you visit a business after the two-year mark and use your gift card, the business is on the hook to reclaim the value of the gift card from the state.
What Happens to Gift Cards From a Business That Has Closed?
There are two options to get your money back on gift cards after a business has closed for good. If the business files for bankruptcy, you can file a claim through the federal court system for restitution. Unfortunately, ever seeing actual money back is unlikely. For a business that permanently closes in Maine and doesn't file bankruptcy, you can file a formal complaint with the Attorney General's office in Maine, and they may be able to help.