Last Wednesday, Oregon’s House of Representatives voted to require companies to allow consumers to redeem gift cards for cash when the balance left on the card is less than $5.
The bill, which passed by a 48-12 vote, does not apply to prepaid phone cards, online retailers, or cards given to consumers for free. Under the proposed law, companies would be required to let consumers redeem a card for cash when the balance drops below $5, as long as the card has been used at least once.
The Oregon Senate already passed the bill last month, and it will now be returning to the Senate for concurrence.
In 2009, the Oregon legislature banned the sale of cards that expire, decrease in value over time, or carry a fee, going beyond federal regulations passed as part of the CARD Act.
Lawmakers estimated that Oregon consumers leave $100 million unredeemed on gift cards each year.
In a March story in Consumer Reports, TowerGroup Senior Research Director Brian Riley estimated that Americans left $2.5 billion in gift card money unredeemed in 2010.
The Oregon bill is not the first of its kind. Many other states have statutes that allow consumers to redeem gift cards for cash under certain conditions.
- In California, gift cards with remaining values of less than $10 are redeemable in cash at the owner’s request.
- In Colorado, Maine, and Washington, gift cards are redeemable for cash if the amount remaining on the card is less than $5.
- In Rhode Island and Vermont, gift cards with remaining values of less than $1 are redeemable in cash at the owner’s request.
Similar legislation has also been signed by the governor of Louisiana, while legislation is pending in Massachusetts and Tennessee.
For the full list of statues and bills pending about redeeming gift card balances, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website.