Know Your Gift Card Rights

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Are you one of the millions of Americans who bought or received a gift card this year?

There's more than one kind.

One legal expert told Fox 8 News knowing the difference can save you money.

Valerie Fedikovich had a purse full of gift cards and more at home when she ran into Fox 8's Lorrie Taylor at Parmatown Mall.

She's a regular user of gift cards and yet she had no idea how the law could protect her and how it couldn't.

According to Cleveland Attorney Jack Landskroner from Team LGM, consumers have rights under state and federal law.

"When you get a gift card and it's from an individual store, that store cannot charge you any fees for two years (while the) card is active, from the day of purchase," said Landskroner, who specializes in consumer class action lawsuits.

Landskroner said a merchant can begin charging a monthly maintenance fee after two years if the card hasn't been used during the previous twelve months.

If the consumer uses it just once the merchant can't touch the balance.

Federal law then guarantees the consumer up to five years of free use.

"Five years is generally the window unless there's inactivity on the card," said Landskroner.

There are exceptions to the law.

Buy a discounted gift card like the ones restaurants offer for half price, or a multiple use card accepted by more than one merchant and the law won't apply.

"Those are not covered under these statutes," said Landskroner. "So consumers should be aware and should make sure they've used these gift cards for restaurants in particular, and other discount type gift cards at the earliest opportunity."

Fedikovich said she was surprised by how much she didn't know.

"I did not know that, guess I got to get out and shop," she laughed.