Giving gift cards this holiday season? Know your rights

Many shoppers find gift cards a convenient choice for the holiday season. Just be sure you buy and use them knowing the facts!

In Manitoba, purchasers cannot be charged a fee when buying a gift card unless it’s to personalize or replace a lost card. This means you can’t be charged an activation fee or an inactivity fee if you don’t use the card for some time.

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Most gift cards issued in Manitoba can never expire, but there are a few exceptions. Gift cards may have an expiry date if they are issued for a specific good or service, like a manicure or a massage. They may also expire if they are given out for free, such as for a promotion or in a raffle prize.

Businesses that issue gift cards must, by law, disclose all conditions, limitations and restrictions related to the card, as well as how to check the card balance. Keeping a copy of the receipt in case there are problems with the card, such as failure to activate, is a good practice.

When a gift card is received, treat it like cash. Keep it in a safe place, but somewhere it won’t be forgotten about because it can be difficult to replace a lost or stolen card. Consider registering the card on the merchant’s website or loading it onto their app, if the option is available.

Different rules may apply to prepaid cards from banks and credit card networks, such as Visa and MasterCard, as they are regulated by the federal government. Consumers should read all terms and conditions, and take note of what fees they may be charged before purchasing those types of prepaid cards.

The Manitoba Consumer Protection Office investigates complaints about gift cards. Businesses that fail to comply with the rules may be subject to penalties that range from $1,000 to $20,000. 

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