Be careful with gift vouchers
Gift vouchers can be exchanged for goods or services up to their face value. There are different types of gift vouchers depending on who issues them, including those that can be used in:
- A specific shop
- A specific chain of shops
- A wide range of different traders (for example, for a specific shopping centre) or any club or association of shops such as One4all vouchers
You do not have the right to get change when you use a gift voucher unless the voucher's terms specifically state that change will be given.
Expiry policies & dates
Some shops do not have a clear expiry policy but others make every effort to ensure that consumers are made aware of this by printing the policy or expiry date on the voucher itself or by making it clear on their website, in-store leaflets and posters. Always check if there is an expiry date printed on the voucher and if not, ask the shop.
Expiry dates vary widely. Some shops give you six months to redeem your voucher, so a gift token you received at Christmas and left in the bottom drawer will be no use by the following July.
Other shops have far more flexible "no expiry" vouchers or may be willing to extend the expiry date if requested. Check out our list of gift voucher and gift card expiry policies. If you are giving the voucher to someone as a gift, remember to pass on any terms and conditions that came with the voucher.
If a voucher does not have an expiry date on it and the shop won’t let you use it, then you have the option use the Small Claims process.
Lost vouchers and receipts
If you lose a gift voucher, the shop doesn't have to replace it. It's just like losing cash - so always keep the voucher somewhere safe.
But if the voucher was made out to you specifically and is not transferable to another person, the shop may be able to issue you a new one and cancel the original voucher.
When buying gift vouchers always ask for a receipt. Remember, there are other ways you can show proof of purchase, such as a credit or debit card statement.
Gift cards, where you can top up your credit, are also popular. But there are some thing to watch out for:
- Their minimum usage rules
- Expiry dates
- What happens to unused credit
- You may need to top-up the card in order to reactivate it
Some gift cards have maintenance fees of around €3 a month, which come into effect soon after the card was bought. So if you give someone this type of gift card for €40, and they don't use it for a year, maintenance charges at €3 a month will mean there is only €4 left on it after a year.
Thinking of buying a gift voucher or gift card? Or have you just received one as a present?
Check all the terms and conditions including the expiry date and whether it has a partial encashment policy - in other words, what happens to the amount left over if you buy something for less than the total value of the gift voucher or card.
Online group discount websites
These websites provide deals and discounts on hotels, restaurants, leisure activities, hairdressing and much more. They are also becoming a very popular way of buying gift vouchers. Rules on the use of these vouchers vary according to the group discount website you use and the business that is selling the deal so always check the terms and conditions before you buy a voucher. It is also a good idea to check out the website of the business the deal applies to.
When you buy one of these vouchers, you have the same consumer rights as buying a gift voucher in a shop, if something goes wrong.
If the shop closes down
If you have a voucher for a store that closes down before you get to use it, you become an unsecured creditor.
If a liquidator is appointed to wind up the company, you must register your claim with this official. Your claim will only be considered after all other creditors have been paid, such as banks and the shop's staff, and it will be very difficult to get your gift voucher honoured.
Minimise the risk
When buying a gift voucher or gift card try to minimise the risk by:
- Always checking the terms and conditions including the expiry date, what happens to any used part, and whether it can be used in every outlet if the shop is part of a chain.
- Buy vouchers that can be used at more than one outlet or chain.
- Use vouchers as quickly as possible.