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The Real Deal: NYS Gets Millions in Unused Gift Card Money

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 09:24 PM EDT
ALBANY - It may soon be hard to even buy a gift card in the state of New Jersey.  Retailers are pulling them from store shelves after the passage of a new state law which requires stores hand over money from unused gift cards to the state after two years.  Here in New York, the State Comptroller also collects on unused gift cards and over the last decade, the office has raked in millions of dollars.

We've now got hundreds of options when it comes to purchasing plastic as a gift but the minute you buy a gift card, the clock starts ticking and if you don't use it within 5 years, you may be surprised at who gets the balance.  Even if the card doesn't have an expiration date, if it lays dormant, the state collects it as unclaimed property and unlike most abandoned property, the Comptrollers Office doesn't hold on to it for you, the state spends it.

In the last 5 years, more than 8.4 million dollars has been collected in unclaimed gift cards issued by New York Corporations.  That money is dumped into New York State's General Fund to be used as deemed necessary.

Taxpayers CBS6 spoke with seem split on the topic.  "I think 5 years is plenty of time for you to be able to get out and use your gift cards...use it before it's gone!" says John Thivierge of Albany.  Laurie Sturges disagrees, "I think the state takes as much as it possibly can and any opportunity they have, they'll use it."  Ann Marie McGuire agrees, "I don't think the state should get my extra money, so the heck with them!"

The New York State Retail Council thinks the law that mandates this, is dated and needs revisiting. "The whole question of the state coming in and saying well, we're better stewards of the money in our abandoned property fund then the retailer is who took the proceeds from the sale of that card and applied it to buying merchandise so that it's available when we want to go in and spend it, well, we disagree," says Ted Potrikus, the Executive Vice President of the Council.

In the past, the state took the money when the card expired but now that most gift cards don't have an expiration date, the Retail Council thinks the policy needs to be changed.

"The retailers have responded to what customers want and I think the interpretation of the abandoned property law needs to do the same," says Potrikus.  So far though, there is no move in that direction.

Here's a breakdown on how much the state has collected in unused gift card monies over the past 6 years:

FY 10-11        $1.7 million
FY 09-10        $1.4 million
FY 08-09        $2.6 million
FY 07-08        $1.5 million
FY 06-07        $1.2 million
FY 05-06        $2.3 million
The Real Deal: NYS Gets Millions in Unused Gift Card Money

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