Gift vouchers are still one of the most popular Christmas gifts and let’s face it you can’t go too far wrong with a voucher – it is never the wrong shade or size!

But it can go horribly wrong if the voucher can’t be used because the expiry date wasn’t displayed or it wasn’t used on time. Or perhaps you are like me when you get a voucher, you put it in your drawer and forget about it.

Are gift vouchers regulated?

There is no specific consumer legislation or regulations governing gift vouchers. That means that whatever terms and conditions the shop imposes is what you are agreeing to when you buy it.

How long is a voucher valid for?

It is up to the shop to determine that — six months, 12 months or no expiry date at all.  So avoid the risk, if it isn’t clear, ask about the expiry date, it is very important.

Using a voucher past the expiry date?

Your voucher is no longer valid past the expiry date (unless it is open-ended).  Some shops may allow you to redeem the voucher past its date but don’t rely on it.  But, if a shop refuses to honour a voucher that doesn’t specify an expiry date, and where one was not included in any terms and conditions, you have a valid case so complain to the shop and if that fails you have the option to refer the matter to the Small Claims Court.

What can I do if I lose my voucher?

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.  Gift cards operate on a different basis and if these are lost, the shop will replace them for a fee.

What if my purchase is less than the voucher amount?

If you wish to use just a portion of the voucher, very rarely will they give you cash for the balance of the voucher. They are not obliged to give you the balance of the voucher.  Again, it is based on the shop policy and they may give you a credit note for the balance.

What happens if the shop goes bust?

Gift voucher holders are not considered preferential creditors as would Revenue or other secured creditors, so you will end up on the list with all other creditors. Basically, this means you will be at the bottom of the queue. It would be extremely unlikely that you get anything back.  To avoid this happening, general voucher schemes like our Listowel Traders Vouchers  reduces this risk.

Do gift cards come with additional charges?

Gift cards, unlike vouchers, are like pre-paid debit cards.  Most come with extra terms and conditions many of which have additional fees and charges, particularly if monies on the card remains unused beyond six or 12 months.

You need to ask before you buy.