Commissioner's Blog: Expert advice for buying a gift card this Mother’s Day

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Gift cards might be considered a lazy gift… but you know what’s worse? Giving Mum a pressie she doesn’t like, want, or need for Mother’s Day. With her special day just around corner, Consumer Protection has some advice for you if you’re thinking about giving Mum a gift card or voucher to her favourite store or local business.


A minimum three-year expiry period applies to most gift cards and the expiry date must be clearly displayed. This means you can easily see and challenge the date if they get it wrong. It also ensures the recipient of your gift won’t be caught out not knowing when it will expire.


There are some exemptions to this such as free promotional or bonus gift cards, like a $50 wine voucher valid for one month that is mailed to a consumer as a free bonus with a purchased item.


Businesses cannot charge post-purchase fees or administration charges that reduce the value of the gift card. These could be activation, account-keeping, and balance enquiry fees.


Other terms and conditions that come with gift cards can vary for every business, so it’s best to check if there’s any spending limits, how the business will give change if the full amount isn’t spent, which stores accept the voucher (particularly important for shopping centre vouchers), if a lost or stolen card can be replaced and how to check the remaining balance.


It’s estimated more than a third of gift cards go unused and an unused gift card is virtually a donation to the retailer. Three years is a long time to spend a gift card but it’s also a long time to forget. Suggest Mum puts a reminder in her phone or calendar to use the voucher before it expires.


It’s also a good idea to use a gift card sooner rather than later, as you can’t be certain the retailer will still be around three years down the track.  Unspent gift cards may become worthless if a business goes bust, closes its doors or changes owners.


Gift vouchers are like cash – if mum loses it, she can’t claim it, so ask her to keep it in a secure place until she’s ready to go shopping.


More information on the rules, including a list of questions to ask when buying gift cards and vouchers, can be found on our website at

Consumer Protection
Media release
09 May 2024

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