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Since You Asked: Gift cards can't expire in Oregon

Several years ago I read that Oregon is among only a handful of states that ban the use of expiration dates on gift certificates. I promptly clipped the article and mailed it to our corporate powers in Portland, as our business routinely issues gift certificates. They promptly lost the article.

I've since tried online to find the Oregon Revised Statute that addresses this, to no avail.

Since 'tis the season, might the SYA super-sleuths determine if this was all a figment of my imagination? I plan to buy several gift certificates this holiday season, and your response will determine whether or not I move forward.

— Christine, Ashland

 Good news, you'll still get to be "Chris" Kringle to your friends this holiday season.

The Oregon Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Division referenced Oregon Revised Statutes 646A.274 to 646A.278, which forbid service fees and expiration dates on retail gift cards issued in Oregon.

That said, there are some caveats.  First, the laws are applicable only to gift cards purchased for use at retail stores.  Those "gift cards" issued by major credit card companies are considered "General use pre-paid cards," and are subject to expiration dates and service fees.  Prepaid calling cards (remember those?) are also exempt from the law.

The law also only applies to retail gift cards purchased at full price. Retail gift cards purchased at a discount are allowed to have an expiration date, but Oregon law mandates it must be at least 30 days after the card was purchased. 

It's also a good idea to be aware of the financial condition of the store issuing gift cards before you buy.  We're past the dark days of the recession when stores such as Circuit City and Waldenbooks went belly-up seemingly overnight, but it's worth noting that a bankruptcy or store closure can render a retail gift card useless.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.