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I recently found several gift certificates (yes, way back when) from stores like Restoration Hardware, Omer DeSerres (now Loomis) and Jacob. I live in Canada. Can I use these certificates today, even though stores generally take cards nowadays? Do they ever expire (there are no dates on these certificates, anywhere) or is their value somehow depreciated since they were bought years and years ago?

I tried to use the Jacob gift certs once, and the store clerk told me I couldn't use them but offered to take them and mail them to head office with her question as to their validity. I declined. Is there a resource anywhere on the web with a definitive, steadfast rule, or does it depend on the store's own policy?

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It depends on:

  • how old are the certificates?
  • do the certificates have an expiry dates?
  • do the certificates have cash value?

In Canada, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia have each enacted legislation to stop gift cards/certificates from expiring.

Cards issued before the effective date are still subject to the old rules. The legislation came into effect:

  • October 1, 2007 for Ontario
  • November 1, 2007 for Manitoba
  • November 1, 2008 for Alberta
  • February 1, 2010 for Nova Scotia

There are several common themes:

  • Cards that have no cash value are exempt.
  • Pre-paid phone cards are exempt since they fall into Federal jurisdiction.
  • Fees are allowed if they are to replace a lost/stolen card.

There are still some unusual exemptions such as mall gift cards in Ontario, Manitoba:

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to regulate gift cards.

[...]

Mall cards (e.g. Eaton Centre gift card) will be covered by the expiry date ban and the new disclosure rules. However, these cards can temporarily maintain their current fee structure while the provincial government examines options on how to best regulate these types of cards. This will allow more time to develop an approach that strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses.

For specific details see the appropriate link.

  • Excellent info - thanks! I suppose it wouldn't hurt to write to the stores' customer care centres and ask whether they would honour them, too. – Nat_Rea Mar 28 '10 at 13:37

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