Americans are holding billions of dollars in unused gift cards, vouchers, and store credits, with an average amount of $175 of unspent funds per person, according to a CreditCards.com survey. But thanks to a series of obscure state laws, consumers may be able to recoup some of that money as cash if their balances are low enough.
In eight states, businesses have to refund balances between $4.99-$9.99, with California boasting the highest redeemable threshold. On the other end, Rhode Island and Vermont only mandate refunds when the balance is 99 cents or less.
Recent lawsuits have spotlighted these little-known state regulations. In the highest-profile case, Boston resident Richard Spencer filed a class-action lawsuit against Starbucks for allegedly failing to provide a way for customers to cash out their balances, save for residents in California and Oregon. Spencer filed the suit after Starbucks denied a request to refund a gift card with a $4.94 balance, which is below Massachusetts' $5 threshold.
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"Starbucks is well aware of state gift card redemption requirements and has proper policies and procedures in place to honor valid gift card cash redemption requests," a Starbucks spokesperson told Axios in August.
States that require refunds include:
California: $9.99 and under
Colorado: $5 and under
Maine: $4.99 and under
Massachusetts: $4.99 and under
Montana: $4.99 and under
New Jersey:$4.99 and under
Oregon:$4.99 and under
Rhode Island:99 cents and under
Vermont: 99 cents and under
Washington:$4.99 and under
While companies are bound by law in these states, consumer advocates say that the process is too complicated. Costco’s website, for example, lists states where gift cards are eligible for refunds but does not explain how consumers can cash in their cards.