Gift cards

From Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

A gift card is a prepaid card that you use to pay for purchases. You can use gift cards at a single merchant or at a group of merchants, such as a chain or shopping mall. Generally, gift cards come with money already on them. Gift cards can be a physical card or an electronic card.

Using gift cards

When you buy something using your gift card, the total value of the gift card goes down by the amount you spend. For example, if you use a $50 grocery store gift card to buy $10 worth of groceries, the balance on the card is now $40.

You can’t redeem a gift card for cash.

Gift cards:

  • come with money already on them
  • don’t expire
  • usually don’t have fees

Sometimes, you can add money to a gift card.

If your gift card is old, you may need to get the money on it transferred to a new card.

Make sure you read the terms and conditions of any gift card you buy or use.

Gift cards with an expiry date

Most gift cards don’t expire. The following gift cards may have an expiry date.

Promotional gift cards

Businesses give promotional gift cards as part of a promotion or a loyalty or awards program. These cards are usually only for purchases at a specific retailer or group of retailers. They often have an expiry date.

Gift cards for a specific service

Sometimes gift cards for a specific service may carry an expiry date. For example, a gift card for a haircut may have an expiry date.

Fees to use your gift card

Generally, there are no fees to use or buy a gift card.

In some provinces or territories, merchants may charge a fee to:

  • replace a lost gift card
  • customize a card
  • activate a card
  • maintain a gift card from a shopping mall after a certain period of time

Checking your gift card balance

Often, you can check the balance of your gift card:

  • on the merchant’s website
  • on your transaction receipt
  • by calling a telephone number on the card

Where to buy gift cards

Gift cards for various merchants are available:

  • online
  • by telephone
  • at retail stores
  • at Canada Post outlets

When you buy a gift card, make sure the merchant activates the card.

When you buy a gift card, you don’t pay tax on the gift card. The merchant will charge tax when you buy a taxable item with the gift card. For example, you pay tax on a sweater you buy with a gift card, the same as you would when you pay with cash or credit.

Regulations on gift cards

Provinces have their own regulations on gift cards.

The territories don’t have specific regulations on gift cards. Contact territorial consumer affairs offices for key details.

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