Don't get caught out with gift cards

Reporter: Jackie Quist

One of the big gimmicks of retailing in the last decade has been gift cards - we spend more than a billion dollars on them each year.

But as many as one in three gift cards sold are never redeemed which means a $360 million windfall for stores and money down the drain for customers. Tammie Shore's seven-year-old stepson found out the hard way that saving a $50 birthday gift card from Nanna is not wise. He was told his gift card had exceeded its 12-month expiry.

"Blake didn't understand what that meant, he just wanted his toy and so dad stepped in and he paid for it. So they ended up getting the amount of the voucher, as well as on top of that, the amount he paid for the toy," Tammie said."I don't buy gift cards for people any more - I'll give kids cash. I can't bring myself to buy a gift card just in case they put it away and forget about it and it's gone."

Its all in the tiny print on the backs of the cards: they're not replaceable, refundable and should be treated like cash. But unlike cash, once the cards expire, they're worthless. In other words, buyer beware.

Valid for two years are gift cards from Coles, David Jones, Harvey Norman and Myer. Many are good for just one year, including cards from BBQ's Galore, Bed Bath 'N Table, Hoyts, Borders, Rebel Sport, JB Hi-Fi, Woolworths and Westfield. Bunnings has no expiry on its gift cards.

ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel says unhappy customers may soon cause to complain about gift cards under new unfair contract term laws being introduced next month. "It will enable the courts to determine whether particular terms and conditions imposed on standard form contracts are fair as far as consumers and suppliers are concerned. Now courts may determine that certain clauses are unfair, and they may render those clauses void, and I think ultimately it's a matter that will be determined in due course."


There is a new option for unwanted gift cards through a new online company called Cardlimbo. You can trade them for cash or donate them to charity.

For further details visit