Remember the Laws When Buying Gift Cards


MANITOBA – The Manitoba Consumer Protection Office is reminding Manitobans of their rights when buying and using gift cards this holiday season.

In Manitoba, purchasers cannot be charged a fee when buying a gift card unless it is to personalize or replace a lost card. This means that an activation fee cannot be charged to use the card or an inactivity fee for choosing not to use the card for some time.

Most gift cards issued in Manitoba can never expire, but there are a few exceptions. Gift cards may have an expiry date if they are issued for a specific good or service, like a manicure or a massage. They may also expire if they are given out for free, such as for a promotion or in a raffle prize.

Businesses that issue gift cards must, by law, disclose all conditions, limitations and restrictions related to the card, as well as how to check the card balance. Keeping a copy of the receipt in case there are any problems with the card, such as failure to activate, is a good practice.

When a gift card is received, treat it like cash. Keep it in a safe place, but somewhere it won’t be forgotten about because it can be difficult to replace a lost or stolen card. Consider registering the card on the merchant’s website or loading it onto their app, if the option is available.

Different rules may apply to prepaid cards from banks and credit card networks, such as Visa and MasterCard, as they are regulated by the federal government. Consumers should read all terms and conditions, and take note of what fees they may be charged before choosing to purchase those types of prepaid cards.

The Consumer Protection Office investigates complaints about gift cards. Businesses that fail to comply with the rules related to gift cards may be subject to administrative penalties that range for $1,000 to $20,000. For more information about gift cards, prepaid cards and other payment options, visit

Manitobans are encouraged to learn more about consumer protection issues and their rights under the law. Download the free Consumer Protection mobile app. Manitobans can also contact the Consumer Protection Office at 204-945-3800, (toll-free) 1-800-782-0067, or by email at More information is also available