CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – Many towns will push you to shop as local as you can. That includes buying friends and family gift cards in hopes that they spend money at those mom and pop shops.
“I think they’re a great idea, a nice gift. When you go to use them, you’re like, wow, it’s like a free meal or free cup of coffee, so it’s nice,” said Jeanne Thate from Fairmont, Minnesota.
Sometimes there is a catch with those cards. They may have an expiration date, or a fee associated with them, if they’re not used. Now, that’s all changing, at least in the state of Iowa.
“I think it’s a great idea. That expiration date puts pressure on people. They get frustrated, because they don’t have time to use them, so I think its great,” said Thate.
On July 1st, a state law was passed that says all gift cards purchased at Iowa based retail stores will forever be honored. Business owner, Brad Barber of Cabin Coffee, says he’s excited about the change.
“Oh, we are elated about that, because that way it never goes away. Our challenge is to keep all of them in our base, because it mushrooms with the amount of them that are out there. We are very excited,” said Barber.
Before this law was in place, business owners were asked to send in their un-used gift cards after five years to the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt; a place in the state for unclaimed property. Now that won’t be a problem. Now, businesses can focus on what they do best, bringing in more customers.
“It markets us. It gets us out there. The people that have those, are the ones that are our advocates, that drive more customers into our store, which saves us money on spending marketing dollars elsewhere.”
According to the Iowa Attorney’s General Office, most consumers will spend their gift card in the first year, if they spend it at all. This law does not apply to out-of-state retailers doing business in Iowa; like Walmart or Target.