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Can't use your gift cards? More stores are closing and have varying policies

What to do with unwanted gift cards
Posted at 4:00 PM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-02 22:50:02-04

PHOENIX — You see the "closing" signs at many shopping centers lately. More stores are going out of business as the pandemic has played havoc with their sales.

So, what does that mean if you have a gift card? Can you still use it? Well, that depends.

June Whisel did a lot of shopping at Stein Mart. The company is closing all of its stores and offering liquidation sales now.

Whisel recently found a gift card and tried to use it. "I've got $50 of their money in my hand and they refuse to honor it," she says. Instead, she says the clerk pointed to a sign that showed the deadline to use gift cards had passed.

While gift cards should be treated just like cash, the rules can change if a business closing, depending on if a bankruptcy court takes over or if the business is sold.

Pier One Imports is also closing all of its physical stores. But a new owner took over the online business. In many cases, you'd be out of luck using an old card. But customer service says your unused Pier One gift card will still be honored online up to $50.

JCPenney's bankruptcy means three Arizona stores are closing. But the business remains open. If you have a gift card it can be used at any open store or online.

Back to Whisel and Stein Mart, there may be some good news. While the business is shutting down, part of Stein Mart's bankruptcy does allow cardholders to "file a proof of claim by October 21." It "does not automatically" mean a refund. But it is something.

Whisel says she learned a big lesson." Never to buy a store card again. I'll only do gift cards that are Mastercard or Visa," she says.

Remember, some of those Mastercard and Visa gift cards come with hefty fees. Know what they are before you buy. And with so much talk of other businesses possibly going under, use your gift cards now, while you can!

Click here for more information about the Stein Mart gift card refund claim.