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Are you stuck with an unspent gift card?

Have you lost out on a gift voucher after it expired or the retailer went bust? Perhaps you just didn’t get round to spending one? We want to hear from you.

We’re working on an investigation into gift cards and want to hear about your experiences: if you’ve received a gift voucher in the past year that ended up being worthless, let us know who it was for and why you haven’t spent it in the comments.

What happens to gift cards when a retailer goes bust?

For those who are tricky to buy for, a gift card can seem like the perfect Christmas or birthday present. But sending gift cards is riskier than you might think – particularly in the current retail climate.

A string of major high street retailers, such as Topshop, Debenhams and Warehouse, have fallen into administration since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately when a retailer goes bust, the administrators that try to save the troubled company can decide to stop accepting gift cards at any point.

Guide: your consumer rights with gift vouchers and cards

This is what happened with Arcadia stores just after Christmas last year – after Topshop fell into administration, customers with gift cards could only spend up to 50% of their order using the gift voucher and how to front the remaining 50% themselves.

This meant Topshop customers who received gift cards for Christmas were only able to spend half of the balance.

It’s worth bearing this in mind before buying a gift voucher – and if you do receive a gift card for a company that later goes bust, make sure you spend it as soon as possible.

Let us know if you’ve lost out on spending your full gift card balance after a retailer went bust.

Has your gift card expired?

Have you had a gift card expire during one of the UK’s lockdowns and the retailer refused to extend it? Gift cards normally have expiry dates – but often they’re nestled in the small print and can be easily missed.

With high street stores shut during lockdown, many retailers took the decision to extend people’s gift cards. But not all were this generous – Which? research last year revealed that an eye-watering £100m had been lost in expired vouchers while non-essential shops were closed.

If you had a gift card that expired (and wasn’t extended) in the past year, let us know in the comments.

Unwanted gift vouchers

Sometimes family and friends don’t know us as well as they might think – did you receive a gift card for a retailer you don’t want to shop with? Maybe you can’t find anything you want to buy from the retailer, or perhaps you decided to exchange the gift card online instead of buying something you don’t want.

There’s a few sites online, including Zapper and Cardyard, that allow you to sell your gift card for slightly less than it’s worth.

Let us know if you’ve struggled to spend your balance or your experience if you’ve sold yours online.

Are you planning to buy a gift card for someone this Christmas?
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I would argue that any term or condition of a gift card that causes it to expire, allowing the business to retain the balance without recompense to the consumer, is an unfair contract term and therefore not binding on the consumer pursuant to Section 62(1) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

It’s high time that the UK enacted legislation about expiry of gift cards, as Australia and Ireland have done.

Thanks for reminding me to look at all my gift cards. I have a Harvey Nichols one with almost £500 on it, whose balance I last checked almost two years ago. So I will need to check the balance again before two years are up to stop it expiring. I bought it using an American Express offer, whereby Amex gave back £30 for every £100 spent. So it’s at a 30% discount.

It’s worth remembering that most gift cards expire two years after the balance last changed or the balance was last checked, either online or in store. So checking the balance every two years prevents expiry.

It seems that Harvey Nichols’ gift card expiry policy is two years since the funds were added. Unlike most other shops, checking the balance does not reset the clock on the two years. So my gift card of almost £500 had expired. I e-mailed Harvey Nichols, pointing out that their shops had been closed for long periods during the two-year validity period. Without any fuss, they sent me a new gift card for the same value, which arrived via DPD today. I’m quite impressed.

There could be some point in distinguishing between gift cards or vouchers that get cancelled by the administrators in the event of a company closure, and those that cannot effectively be used because the government has enforced the lockdown of the trader.

During the first few months of the coronavirus emergency there were quite a few comments in Which? Conversation about retailers’ refusal to extend the validity of gift cards. Some companies had argued that they could have been used for on-line purchasing but that still left grievances.

I recall a garden centre arguing that it could not extend gift vouchers because that would lead to accruals in their trading accounts. That could be an impediment or just a convenient excuse.

Who owns a gift card and has any rights over its use or can claim validity? The purchaser, or the recipient?

A relative generously gave me a book token last Christmas but I haven’t been in a bookshop since before March 2020. Luckily they don’t expire for several years but it would have been useful to be able to redeem it on-line since I haven’t stopped buying books.

I found a cineworld gift card that I had forgotten about, it actually expired over 2 years ago. Had it gifted to us when we first had our child and the thought behind it would be that we could have a night out to ourselves, life got in the way and that never happened but it’s a shame these things have expiry times as that is just money down the drain.

Why don’t you ask Cineworld to reissue it? There is no reason why Cineworld should be able to keep the money paid without providing the service. Cineworld can’t rely on an unfair contract term that allows it to do so.

Unfortunately, mine gift card was expired too due to COVID lockdown and I didn’t noticed it before. Few months back when I saw it, there was nothing I can do with it.

Have you tried to get it reissued as NFH has suggested above?

Having once lost £85 on gift vouchers that had not even expired, I do my best to avoid gift cards and vouchers.

my wife had a Tea for two gift card from activity superstore, to be fair they extended the expiry twice but in the end due to covid it ran out & also the 2 nearest locations 50 miles away withdrew