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How to stop your gift cards becoming worthless

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A gift card is one of the most convenient presents to buy and a great one to receive - that's if you get around to using it.

If you are anything like me, by the time you finally use it the expiry date is long gone and so is your present.

That's why it's great news to hear the NSW government has finally stepped in, forcing retailers to put a three-year minimum on gift card expiry dates.

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The decision will put an extra $60 million worth of gift card dollars back into the pockets of consumers.

Now the pressure is on other states to follow suit. Collectively Australians spend $2.5 billion every year on gift cards.

Currently it's up to individual retailers to decide how long consumers have to use their cards. As a rule of thumb, shoppers are given between 12 and 24 months to make a purchase but some retailers like Apple go even further, with no expiry date on their cards.

Where consumers are often caught out is with smaller retailers, who may only offer a short period to redeem the offer.

Until the rest of the states and territories get on board, make sure you check your expiry date carefully.

If your gift card doesn't clearly state when the offer runs out, contact the retailer and ask them to write it on the card or keep a copy of the purchase receipt.

Consumers should also make sure they understand what happens to their gift card if the retailer goes bankrupt. The collapse of electronics giant Dick Smith highlighted this issue back in 2016.

(Gift card holders are classed as unsecured creditors.)

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, there are several measures you can take to redeem your cash, though not always successful.

A good starting point is to look at your rights on the moneysmart.gov.au website

Despite the risks, gift cards are still a convenient present as we head towards Christmas. So rather than letting your card gather dust, do yourself a favour and spend it on something nice.

Also, make sure you spend the full amount on the gift card before the expiry date.

It's very easy to make one purchase and forget you have a small balance left over on your card.

If this is you, it's worth asking the retailer to transfer the remaining funds to a new gift card. Although there is no legal requirement for retailers to help you, some are happy to play ball, as a show of good customer service.

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