Gift Certificates and Gift Cards

In General:

When Buying a Gift Certificate or Gift Card

  • If you are buying a gift certificate for a service, get specific details about exactly what is included in the service and the value of the service to avoid confusion when the gift certificate is used.
  • Buy only cards that clearly disclose information about the initial cost, monthly fees, and expiration date. If a card does not disclose information about fees and expiration dates or is not clear on fees and expiration dates, consider purchasing a different card.

When Receiving a Gift Certificate or Gift Card

  • Try to spend the entire balance as soon as possible.
  • Register your gift card, when possible. This may help protect you in case your card is lost or stolen. 

Understanding Your Rights:

Connecticut Law

Gift certificates and gift cards issued by Connecticut businesses will most likely be covered under the Connecticut state law. To be covered by our law, the gift certificate and gift card must have been:

  • Sold in Connecticut; and
  •  Not backed by a Federal financial institution

What you should know about Gift Cards in Connecticut:

  • Certain qualifying gift certificates and gift cards cannot have an expiration date or inactivity fee.
  • For most gift certificates and gift cards, a business must provide a cash refund upon consumer request for any gift card balance less than $5.00 after a purchase is made. 

Not all cards purchased in a store are gift cards. Gift card laws do not apply to:

  • Reloadable pre-paid cards are not gift cards. 
  • Store loyalty and reward cards
  • Any gifts issued as an award or part of a promotional program (program details should be disclosed at sign-up)
  • Pre-paid calling cards 
  • Store credit refund cards

Federal Law

Under Federal law, gift cards may have an expiration date and inactivity fees. Bank-issued and bank-backed gift cards fall under federal law. These bank-backed gift cards fall under Federal law even if they are sold in Connecticut or are shipped to a Connecticut address.  Often, these cards will have a major credit-card logo.

Even though these types of gift cards have expiration dates and fees, there are a few rules. The gift card:

  • Cannot expire within the first five years from the date it was issued;
  • May not have fees during the first twelve months from the date it was issued;
  • Fees must be disclosed when the gift card is purchased; and
  • Any money added to the gift card may not expire within five years from the date it was deposited.
When a Gift Certificate or Gift Card is Lost or Stolen:

Neither Connecticut nor Federal law protects you if your gift certificate or gift card is lost or stolen. Some businesses may allow you to register your gift certificate or gift card, which could help you reclaim your balance if it is lost. You should check with the business or their website to verify. 

When a Business Closes:

It is very difficult to get your money back on an unused gift certificate or gift card if a business closes. That's why it's important to use gift cards as soon as possible after receiving them. 

However, closing businesses are sometimes willing to work with gift certificate and gift card holders to maintain their reputation. If the owner of the closed business has another business or location, ask if the old gift card can be honored at the different location. If a new owner takes over the closed business, they may be willing to honor the old gift card to gain your business.


If you have an issue, or any questions, please contact DCP's complaint center at