I was on a road trip recently through the Central Valley of California and stopped in at a Jack In the Box. I forgot where I was heading, but I’m fairly certain it was early morning because I remember ordering a most excellent breakfast burrito along with an absolutely terrible cup of coffee.
Burritos and coffee aside, though, I cam across this sign while waiting for my order. Because I’m me, I snapped a photo of it to aid in discussing it with all of you. The California law the sign is citing to is the CA Civil Code and it’s specifically section 1749.5(b)(2) which states that, as of January 1, 2008 ” Notwithstanding paragraph (1), any gift certificate with a cash value of less than ten dollars ($10) is redeemable in cash for its cash value.”
Paragraph (1) of CA Civil Code section 1749.5(b) further states that ”
Any gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is redeemable in cash for its cash value, or subject to replacement with a new gift certificate at no cost to the purchaser or holder.“
CA Civil Code section 1749.45(a) defines “gift certificate” to include gift cards as, I believe, most people would normally interpret the term (i.e. a card issued by and usable at a single merchant or retailer). However, section 1749.45(a)‘s definition of “gift certificate” excludes those gift cards “usable with multiple sellers of goods or services” provided that any applicable expiration date is printed on the card. I very rarely use gift cards, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single gift card that can be used at multiple stores before. If you have, leave a comment as I always enjoy learning new things.
Section 1749.5 also goes over the rules regarding service fees and expiration dates for gift cards in California so take a look at those if your question concerns those instead of the rules on cashing gift cards out.
As always, this post is meant to address a single limited legal question relating to something the average person encounters in day-to-day life. This post is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion on the topic of cashing out gift cards in California. For instance, there are certain categories of gift cards that can’t be cashed out for their face value (see CA Civil Code section 1749.5(d)). If you do have a more involved question that this post or the resources linked in it cannot address, please do find a lawyer in your area and discuss your situation with them.