PhotoHow much time should you have to use a gift card before it expires? 

That's what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is trying to decide as it considers two requests for decisions on whether certain provisions of unclaimed property laws in Maine and Tennessee relating to gift cards are inconsistent with federal law on gift card expiration dates. 

We are committed to gathering input before we make these kinds of decisions,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This notice gives the public an opportunity to comment on a decision that could affect how consumers use their gift cards.” 

Feds vs. states 

Federal law, as set forth in the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and the CFPB’s Regulation E, generally prohibits the sale of a gift card that expires sooner than five years after the card is issued, or five years after the date when funds were last loaded onto the card. 

At the same time, unclaimed property laws in Maine and Tennessee provide that certain types of gift cards are abandoned property if they remain unused for a period of two years. 

Under the EFTA and Regulation E, the CFPB is required to respond to such requests for determinations about potential conflicts between federal and state laws. The EFTA requires the CFPB to evaluate not only whether state law is inconsistent with federal law, but also whether it is more protective of consumers than federal law. 

The CFPB has issued a notice summarizing the relevant federal and state laws, explaining the factors that the Bureau will consider when making its determinations, and asking members of the public to weigh in with their views about whether provisions of unclaimed property laws in Maine and Tennessee relating to gift cards are inconsistent with federal law or provide consumers greater protection than federal law. 

The Bureau will consider any comments received before making a final determination.


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