Retailers across Australia are facing calls to follow Woolworths and scrap the expiry dates on gift cards so shoppers can choose exactly when they want to use them.
Woolies has announced that gift cards for use at its supermarkets and other retail outlets will be sold without expiry dates from 31 March.
Expiry dates will also be lifted for gift cards bought from the end of March last year.
The move has been hailed as a win for shoppers by consumer advocates, who want any retailers selling gift cards with expiry dates to get rid of them.
“We welcome Woolworths’ decision and we’d like to see the other major retailers, who haven’t already stopped fleecing their customers, follow their lead,” Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey told AAP.
“Although you might think a gift card is a convenient purchase at the point of sale, it’s worth remembering you’re buying a bunch of terms and conditions.
“From short expiry dates to activation fees, gift cards are more a present for the retailer than they are for your loved one.”
Woolworths’ move goes further than its original decision late last year to extend gift card expiry dates from one to three years.
It also comes just weeks before the NSW Department of Fair Trading introduces a three-year minimum expiry limit for most gift cards across the state from March 31, a rule that Choice would like to see rolled out nationally.
“After talking to more of our customers about this in recent months, we’ve decided to go one better and scrap gift card expiry dates for good,” Woolworths head of financial services and insurance Chris Cramond said.
“It means one less thing to worry about for our busy customers, who will have complete flexibility to use gift cards as and when it suits them.”
The change applies to gift cards for Woolworths supermarkets, Big W, Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Cellarmasters and Caltex Woolworths Petrol.
A study released by comparison website finder.com.au last August found that Australians waste $70 million a year on unredeemed gift cards.
Australians left an average of $54 each on gift cards, equating to $142 million in unused funds over two years.
Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn said the best thing consumers can do if they receive a gift card is to use it.
“If you have a card spend it,” he told the Nine Network.
“Far too many people hoard them.”