Overview

Gift cards purchased in Alberta are not subject to expiry dates and fees that lower their value over time. This includes cards purchased in Alberta on the internet.

Alberta’s Gift Card Regulation is part of the Consumer Protection Act. Under the Consumer Protection Act, businesses convicted of violating the Gift Card Regulation could face fines up to $300,000, two years in prison, or both.

Ask about all of the conditions that apply to the card before buying it.

For more information, see the Gift cards tipsheet.

Gift cards covered by regulation

The regulation applies to prepaid purchase cards that can be used like cash to pay for goods and services.

Prepaid purchase cards include:

  • gift cards
  • gift certificates
  • written certificates
  • electronic cards or vouchers with a specific dollar value
  • reloadable gift cards

Gift cards not covered by regulation

Gift cards that do not have a cash value are not covered by the regulation. This includes:

  • promotional cards
  • loyalty cards
  • cards sold for a specific service (for example, a card that entitles a consumer to a manicure and does not have a specific dollar amount)
  • gift cards where there is a direct agreement between the consumer and the financial institution (bank, treasury branch, credit union, or trust corporation) that issues the card

Rules

Anyone who sells or accepts gift cards for payment must follow the requirements of the regulation.

Expiry dates

  • Expiry dates are not allowed on gift cards.
  • If a gift card has an expiry date that falls on or after November 1, 2008, the expiry date is void.
  • A card will not expire until the entire value has been used.
  • Gift cards issued by a financial institution can include an expiry date or extra fees.

Fees

  • Businesses are only allowed to charge the following fees:
    • a one-time fee when the card is purchased
    • a fee to replace a lost or stolen card
    • a fee to customize a card
  • Businesses cannot charge inactivity fees, also called dormancy fees, that reduce the value of a gift card if it is not used within a certain time.
    • This rule also applies to cards purchased before November 1, 2008 that are still active.

Terms and conditions

  • Businesses must tell consumers about any terms and conditions on the use of their gift cards (for example, a business might not allow gift cards to be exchanged for cash or for payment on credit accounts).
  • Terms and conditions must be printed on the card itself as well as on the packaging or promotional materials and be easy to understand.
  • A business that sells a gift card must give a receipt to the buyer.
  • Contact information for the business must be printed on the card.

Partial payment

  • A business must accept a gift card as partial payment for a purchase that costs more than the value of the card.
  • A business cannot keep the unused amount left on a gift card when a consumer buys something that costs less than the dollar value of the card.

Contact

If you are sold a gift card with an expiry date or one that includes additional fees not listed above, contact the business. This will give them an opportunity to comply with the regulation.

If this does not work, contact Service Alberta’s Consumer Contact Centre:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-4088
Toll free: 1-877-427-4088 (in Alberta)