A consumer reporter in Portland, Maine, recently highlighted in a report that the state requires that gift card issuers refund any balances under $5 on a card in cash if the cardholder requests it.
I recently picked up an $18 book. I had a $20 Christmas gift card. With tax, my purchase was $18.99. I asked for the remaining $1.01 to be returned in cash.
The cashier told me store policy – they could only do that for balances less than $1. After talking with a manager (mostly to see what would happen), I got the $1.01. She apologized, told me they were not familiar with this state law, and wrapped up with a “good to know.”
The law will doubtlessly irk any retailer who is still hoping to get some kind of breakage off of gift cards, but it highlights a few of elements of gift card strategy.
First, the denominations of gift cards should bear some relation to average ticket size for the retailer. A retailer can promote lift or repeat visits by setting card amounts with the average ticket size in mind.
Second, gift cards are license to spend, so retailers should prompt for redemption, upsell, and continuing the relationship. In the case of Maine, it might be valuable top retailers to encourage customers to register cars to set up reminders for unused balances, convert plastic cards to digital cards, and encourage people to pool their cards. Gift cards can be the beginning of a relationship, but the brand promise has to be enough that people are reluctant to cash out.
Third, regulations play a big role in every gift card program and vary from state to state. Pay attention to the regs and make sure your front line people know the important parts of the law. It can help in keeping customers happy.
Read the story here:
Maine is not alone in requiring the redemption of gift card balances for cash. Other states with cashout provisions on the books include California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode, Island, Vermont, and Washington.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a guide to state gift card laws that includes general information on the definition of gift cards, expiration date provisions, fee provisions, cash redemption , and escheatment. The information is high level, but can help gift card managers figure out where they should be asking their legal teams questions.
The NCSL guide to state gift card laws can be found here