Are you the purchaser?
Whether your problem is with the expiry date of an afternoon tea gift voucher or you’ve lost a gift card you got at Christmas to be spent with your favourite retailer, your rights will depend on whether it was you who purchased the voucher or whether you received it from someone else.
If you purchased a gift voucher or card, then you will be bound by the terms made or known at the time of purchase - even if you’ve given the gift voucher to someone else as a present.
If you didn’t purchase the gift voucher, but you have received one from a friend or family member, you will need to speak to the person who purchased it for you.
Gift card purchaser rights
Regardless of whether you’ve bought your dad a driving experience for Father’s Day from a specialised experience day website or whether you’ve gifted your mum spa treatment vouchers directly from her favourite local spa, the company issuing the voucher should include any important terms at the point of purchase.
Always check the terms written on the voucher (or the packaging around it). As the purchaser, as you will be bound by terms made known before, or at the time of purchase.
If the terms were not prominently brought to your attention when you purchased the gift voucher - for example, they were hidden on the reverse side of the card or voucher and this couldn’t have been seen because the card was stuck down or enclosed in packaging - then you may be able to argue that the terms are contrary to the requirements of good faith, if you later have a problem.
To meet the requirements of good faith, the terms must be designed, negotiated and entered into with you in a fair and open way.
When gift vouchers expire
Gift vouchers and cards do expire eventually. But, the amount of time you have to use the gift card or voucher can vary a lot - from specific dates and seasonal months to 3 months up to 12 months, for example.
Expiry dates are allowed as long as the person buying the voucher was made aware of this at the time of purchase.
So, if you’re thinking of gift voucher ideas for someone else, you’ll want to check the expiry date to make sure the recipient of your gift voucher still has enough time to spend it and also to make them aware of the expiry date and other important conditions when you gift it to them.
Similarly, if you are the recipient of a gift voucher, you should look at the expiry date as soon as you receive it, so you are aware of how much time you have to use it.
If you have a voucher for an experience day, you should make sure that you are clear on whether or not you need to book and take the experience before the expiry date printed on your voucher, or whether you just need to book it before the expiry date.
Look on the voucher issuer's website or get in touch with its customer service team to clarify, if the purchaser of your gift voucher isn’t sure.
If the voucher has expired without you realising, you may be able to extend it with a fee. You may struggle to get it extended for free unless the purchaser can prove the expiry date conditions weren’t clear to them at the time of purchase
What to do if a voucher is lost
If you have lost your voucher, you may be able to get one reissued by email for free or a physical replacement sent to you for a small fee.
The retailer or company may not be able to do this with you if you are the recipient of the gift voucher. If this is the case, ask the purchaser of your gift voucher if they can help arrange for you to be resent a lost gift card or voucher.
How to exchange unwanted vouchers
If you wish to exchange an unwanted voucher, you would need to check the terms of the voucher. If it’s a voucher for an experience bought from an experience-dedicated website you may have more luck in being able to change this than if your gift card is for spending with a specific retailer.
It’s unlikely you will be able to exchange an unwanted voucher for cash.
Gift vouchers when a company goes bust
When a retailer has gone bust, the administrators see customers with vouchers as creditors.
This means you will be among the business’ other creditors, who are all trying to claim back any money owed.
The administrators are required to treat all creditors equally and can’t prioritise one over the other.
So, to get your money back, you’ll need to make a claim in writing to the administrators with proof of your vouchers.
But before you do this, it is worth calling or visiting the store to check if the voucher can still be used. Sometimes, the administrators of a company in trouble will decide to honour gift vouchers and cards.
In cases when businesses are bought up by another business, gift cards and vouchers from the previous operation are also sometimes accepted, so it’s always worth checking.
If the gift card or voucher was bought through a third party, it would be worth seeing if the purchaser can approach them for a refund. While the purchaser has no right to a refund, the third-party may still choose to act as it still has a reputation to manage and customer loyalty to consider.
Another route for getting your money back is to make a Section 75 claim under the Consumer Credit Act.
The purchaser can do this if the gift cards or vouchers were bought on a card and the value of the single purchase was over £100.
If the voucher or gift card is under this amount, you may be able to make a claim under chargeback rules to your credit or debit card provider, but this is not always successful.
You can read our detailed guide on what to do if a company goes bust and how to get your money back.