CA Law Tip o’ the Month: Cash Back on Gift Cards!

Lost among the voluminous chatter about talking and texting while driving earlier this year was a tidbit that I think is especially good to know in light of our beleaguered economic sitchyashun: as of January 1, 2008, California law requires merchants to provide cash back to the purchaser or holder of any gift certificate with a balance less than $10. Of course, there are a number of loopholes that card issuers can use to extract value from your card balance (keep an eye out for “dormancy fees for non-use” in particular), but if you’ve got less than $10 left on your Starbucks card and want to exchange it for cold, hard cash in lieu of a warm, satisfying Caramel Dolce Latte you’re good to go. And, just in case you forget, some Starbucks like the one I haunt at Glendale and Fletcher even sport a convenient counter sign giving you the lowdown! For full details on the ins and outs of getting your cash, check out the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ “FAQ and Tips and Gift Certificates and Gift Cards.”