Do Gift Cards Expire In Canada?

Do Gift Cards Expire In Canada?

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated March 14, 2023

Do gift cards expire? It’s not uncommon to forget about your gift cards, especially if you’ve stashed them out of sight. Weeks, months, and even years may pass before you stumble upon unused gift cards. By the time you find a gift card and decide to use it, you might worry that it will be declined at checkout.

Let’s find out more about gift card expiry dates and the rules that govern them across Canada.

Do Gift Cards Expire In Canada?

Most gift cards do not have an expiry date. That said, some cards might, such as the following: 

  • Charitable or promotional gift cards. Some companies offer gift cards as part of a promotion, charity, or loyalty program. These gift cards are typically only used to buy products or services of specific merchants and often have an expiration date.  
  • Gift cards for certain services. A gift card may have an expiration date for specific services, such as a haircut, massage, or spa treatment. 

Gift Card Expiry Rules By Province

Whether or not gift cards expire depends on the province or territory. 

Do Gift Cards Expire In Alberta? 

Gift cards bought in Alberta do not expire, and they do not come with fees that would reduce their value over time. Gift card rules are governed by Alberta’s Gift Card Regulation, which falls under the Consumer Protection Act. Any businesses that violate the Regulation, including imposing expiry dates, could be fined.

Types of Cards Covered By Regulation 

The following card types are subject to the Regulation: 

  • Gift cards, including reloadable cards
  • Gift certificates
  • Written certificates
  • Electronic cards of a specific value

Types of Cards Not Covered By The Gift Card Regulation

The following card types are not subject to the Regulation:

  • Loyalty cards
  • Gift cards purchased for promotional purposes
  • Gift cards for a specific service 
  • Gift cards with a direct agreement between the buyer and the financial institution issuing the card

Do Gift Cards Expire In British Columbia? 

In British Columbia, most gift cards do not expire. Meaning the funds in the card will retain their value and can be used at any time. In fact, businesses in British Columbia are not usually allowed to assign an expiry date on gift cards bought in the province. That said, some exceptions apply, including the following:

  • Gift cards for a specific product or service, such as a haircut 
  • Gift cards purchased at a discount
  • Gift cards purchased for charity
  • Gift cards purchased before BC’s gift card law came into effect 
  • Store credit for the return of a non-refundable product or service 

Do Gift Cards Expire In Ontario? 

Businesses are not allowed to put expiry dates on most gift cards, as per the Consumer Protection Act. All conditions of the gift card must also be stated clearly and visibly in writing. However, exceptions apply for some cards, such as the following:

  • Gift cards for a specific service 
  • Gift cards purchased for charity
  • Loyalty or club cards used to collect points

Can Gift Cards Charge Fees? 

Most businesses cannot charge extra fees under the Act, such as the following:

  • Activation fees to buy or use the card 
  • Fees that reduce the card’s value over time

Do Gift Cards Expire In Quebec?

Expiry dates are not permitted on any type of gift card purchased in Quebec. Businesses are also not allowed to charge fees for using or replacing gift cards.

Do Gift Cards Expire In Manitoba?

Expiry dates are not allowed on gift cards bought in Manitoba, except for the following:

  • Gift cards purchased for a specific product or service 
  • Gift cards purchased for promotional purposes
  • Gift cards purchased for charity

In addition, merchants cannot charge fees on gift cards, except in the following scenarios:

  • To replace a lost or stolen card
  • To personalize a card 

Do Gift Cards Expire In Nova Scotia?

Under Nova Scotia law, gift cards cannot have expiry dates. Service fees are also not allowed, except to replace or customize a card. This means inactivity fees cannot be charged if the card is not used within a certain time frame. Similarly, the value of the card will not decrease with time and can be used at its full value at any point in time. 

Do Gift Cards Expire In New Brunswick?

Under the Gift Cards Act in New Brunswick, merchants cannot place expiry dates on gift cards. However, some exceptions apply, such as the following:

  • Gift cards purchased for a specific product or service 
  • Gift cards purchased for charity
  • Gift cards purchased for promotional purposes

Do Gift Cards Expire In Newfoundland?

In Newfoundland, gift card expiry dates are not allowed. However, there are a couple of gift card types that can expire:

  • Gift cards purchased for charity
  • Gift cards purchased for promotional purposes

In addition, no fees can be charged on gift cards, except on cards issued for promotional purposes. 

Do Gift Cards Expire In Saskatchewan?

Gift cards don’t expire in Saskatchewan, except cards purchased for promotional purposes. No extra fees can be charged, either, with the following exceptions:

  • Gift cards purchased for charity
  • To replace a lost or stolen card
  • To personalize a card 

Do Gift Cards Expire In PEI?

Merchants are not permitted to place an expiry date on gift cards. In fact, under the law, even if the card has an expiry date, it can still be used as though it does not have one. 

Similarly, they cannot charge additional fees aside from the initial purchase price.

Gift Cards Vs Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards and gift cards work in a similar way in that they are both loaded with a dollar value and can be used to make purchases at merchants. But there are two specific differences: how long each card lasts, and where each card type can be used.

Gift Cards 

Gift cards are preloaded with a specific dollar amount. Once you’ve used up that amount, gift cards are typically no longer useful. Further, gift cards are typically issued by a specific store or family of stores, which means you can only use your gift cards at these particular merchants.

Prepaid Cards 

Prepaid cards are similar to gift cards in that they are preloaded with a certain dollar value. The biggest difference is that once the value has been used up, prepaid cards can be reloaded again and again. Prepaid cards are also often multifunctional and can be used in a number of ways: 

  • To make purchases and pay bills
  • To withdraw cash from ATMs

Further, prepaid cards have a network logo, such as Visa or Mastercard, which means the cards can be used anywhere these brands are accepted. They also usually come with monthly maintenance fees.

Where Can You Buy Gift Cards In Canada? 

Gift cards are available for purchase from any merchant that offers them. Some stores sell only their own gift cards, while others, like department stores or supermarkets, sell a variety of gift cards from different merchants. You can buy them in person, online, or by telephone. Gift cards are also available at Canada Post locations.  

Tips On Buying Gift Cards

To get the most out of your gift card and steer clear of potential issues, consider the following tips before buying one:

Watch Out For Fraud 

Gift card scams are on the rise, so it’s important that you recognize the signs of fraud before buying a card. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Look for altered packaging
  • Ask the merchant to verify the amount on the card 
  • Don’t click on suspicious links online when buying or checking a balance

Verify The Retailer’s Refund Policy 

Most stores don’t allow refunds on gift cards. Before you buy a gift card, verify the store’s refund policy. Vendors can choose their own policies, though the rules may also vary by province. 

Understand The Fees 

Typically there are no fees charged by vendors to buy or use gift cards. However, in some provinces or territories, merchants are allowed to apply fees in the following circumstances:

  • To replace a lost or stolen gift card
  • To personalize a gift card
  • To activate a gift card
  • To maintain a gift card from a mall after a certain amount of time

Make Sure The Card Is Activated

When you buy a gift card, make sure that the cashier activates it at the point of sale. Otherwise, the card will not be active and won’t work when you try to use it.

Avoid Network Logo Gift Cards

Gift cards are available from big network brands, like Visa and Mastercard, as mentioned. They are convenient, since they can essentially be used as cash where Visa or Mastercard are accepted, but they’re not as handy as you may think. 

These network gift cards earn a profit from fees. That means you’re paying a premium just to have a card in your hand, when you could easily buy a regular merchant gift card without the added fees. 

Look For A Discount

Merchants sometimes offer gift cards at a discount, so keep an eye out for these sales when shopping for a card.

Final Thoughts

Provinces across Canada have rules that govern how merchants treat their gift cards, and in most cases, expiry dates are not allowed. That means if you stumble upon a long-lost gift card, odds are it’s still viable and can be used at the applicable merchant.

Do Gift Cards Expire FAQs

How do I check my gift card balance?

You can check your gift card balance by visiting the merchant’s website, calling the phone number on the card, or checking the purchase receipt. 

Can I withdraw cash at an ATM with my gift card?

Using your gift card to take out cash at a bank machine may be possible, if the card specifically permits it. However, most store-based gift cards don’t offer this option. You may be more likely to see this option with gift cards that aren’t affiliated with any specific store.

Can you sell unwanted gift cards?

There are several gift card exchange websites that you can use to sell your gift cards, such as or

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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