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Comment for 1005.20 Requirements for Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

20(a) Definitions

1. Form of card, code, or device. Section 1005.20 applies to any card, code, or other device that meets one of the definitions in §§ 1005.20(a)(1) through (a)(3) (and is not otherwise excluded by § 1005.20(b)), even if it is not issued in card form. Section 1005.20 applies, for example, to an account number or bar code that can be used to access underlying funds. Similarly, § 1005.20 applies to a device with a chip or other embedded mechanism that links the device to stored funds, such as a mobile phone or sticker containing a contactless chip that enables the consumer to access the stored funds. A card, code, or other device that meets the definition in §§ 1005.20(a)(1) through (a)(3) includes an electronic promise (see comment 20(a)-2) as well as a promise that is not electronic. See, however, § 1005.20(b)(5). In addition, § 1005.20 applies if a merchant issues a code that entitles a consumer to redeem the code for goods or services, regardless of the medium in which the code is issued (see, however, § 1005.20(b)(5)), and whether or not it may be redeemed electronically or in the merchant's store. Thus, for example, if a merchant emails a code that a consumer may redeem in a specified amount either online or in the merchant's store, that code is covered under § 1005.20, unless one of the exclusions in § 1005.20(b) apply.

2. Electronic promise. The term “electronic promise” as used in EFTA sections 915(a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(C), and (a)(2)(D) means a person's commitment or obligation communicated or stored in electronic form made to a consumer to provide payment for goods or services for transactions initiated by the consumer. The electronic promise is itself represented by a card, code or other device that is issued or honored by the person, reflecting the person's commitment or obligation to pay. For example, if a merchant issues a code that can be given as a gift and that entitles the recipient to redeem the code in an online transaction for goods or services, that code represents an electronic promise by the merchant and is a card, code, or other device covered by § 1005.20.

3. Cards, codes, or other devices redeemable for specific goods or services. Certain cards, codes, or other devices may be redeemable upon presentation for a specific good or service, or “experience,” such as a spa treatment, hotel stay, or airline flight. In other cases, a card, code, or other device may entitle the consumer to a certain percentage off the purchase of a good or service, such as 20% off of any purchase in a store. Such cards, codes, or other devices generally are not subject to the requirements of this section because they are not issued to a consumer “in a specified amount” as required under the definitions of “gift certificate,” “store gift card,” or “general-use prepaid card.” However, if the card, code, or other device is issued in a specified or denominated amount that can be applied toward the purchase of a specific good or service, such as a certificate or card redeemable for a spa treatment up to $50, the card, code, or other device is subject to this section, unless one of the exceptions in § 1005.20(b) apply. See, e.g., § 1005.20(b)(3). Similarly, if the card, code, or other device states a specific monetary value, such as “a $50 value,” the card, code, or other device is subject to this section, unless an exclusion in § 1005.20(b) applies.

4. Issued primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Section 1005.20 only applies to cards, codes, or other devices that are sold or issued to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. A card, code, or other device initially purchased by a business is subject to this section if the card, code, or other device is purchased for redistribution or resale to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Moreover, the fact that a card, code, or other device may be primarily funded by a business, for example, in the case of certain rewards or incentive cards, does not mean the card, code, or other device is outside the scope of § 1005.20, if the card, code, or other device will be provided to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. But see § 1005.20(b)(3). Whether a card, code, or other device is issued to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes will depend on the facts and circumstances. For example, if a program manager purchases store gift cards directly from an issuing merchant and sells those cards through the program manager's retail outlets, such gift cards are subject to the requirements of § 1005.20 because the store gift cards are sold to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. In contrast, a card, code, or other device generally would not be issued to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and therefore would fall outside the scope of § 1005.20, if the purchaser of the card, code, or device is contractually prohibited from reselling or redistributing the card, code, or device to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and reasonable policies and procedures are maintained to avoid such sale or distribution for such purposes. However, if an entity that has purchased cards, codes, or other devices for business purposes sells or distributes such cards, codes, or other devices to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, that entity does not comply with § 1005.20 if it has not otherwise met the substantive and disclosure requirements of the rule or unless an exclusion in § 1005.20(b) applies.

5. Examples of cards, codes, or other devices issued for business purposes. Examples of cards, codes, or other devices that are issued and used for business purposes and therefore excluded from the definitions of “gift certificate,” “store gift card,” or “general-use prepaid card” include:

i. Cards, codes, or other devices to reimburse employees for travel or moving expenses.

ii. Cards, codes, or other devices for employees to use to purchase office supplies and other business-related items.

20(a)(2) Store Gift Card

1. Relationship between “gift certificate” and “store gift card.” The term “store gift card” in § 1005.20(a)(2) includes “gift certificate” as defined in § 1005.20(a)(1). For example, a numeric or alphanumeric code representing a specified dollar amount or value that is electronically sent to a consumer as a gift which can be redeemed or exchanged by the recipient to obtain goods or services may be both a “gift certificate” and a “store gift card” if the specified amount or value cannot be increased.

2. Affiliated group of merchants. The term “affiliated group of merchants” means two or more affiliated merchants or other persons that are related by common ownership or common corporate control (see, e.g., 12 CFR 227.3(b) and 12 CFR 223.2) and that share the same name, mark, or logo. For example, the term includes franchisees that are subject to a common set of corporate policies or practices under the terms of their franchise licenses. The term also applies to two or more merchants or other persons that agree among themselves, by contract or otherwise, to redeem cards, codes, or other devices bearing the same name, mark, or logo (other than the mark, logo, or brand of a payment network), for the purchase of goods or services solely at such merchants or persons. For example, assume a movie theatre chain and a restaurant chain jointly agree to issue cards that share the same “Flix and Food” logo that can be redeemed solely towards the purchase of movie tickets or concessions at any of the participating movie theatres, or towards the purchase of food or beverages at any of the participating restaurants. For purposes of § 1005.20, the movie theatre chain and the restaurant chain would be considered to be an affiliated group of merchants, and the cards are considered to be “store gift cards.” However, merchants or other persons are not considered to be affiliated merely because they agree to accept a card that bears the mark, logo, or brand of a payment network.

3. Mall gift cards. See comment 20(a)(3)-2.

20(a)(3) General-Use Prepaid Card

1. Redeemable upon presentation at multiple, unaffiliated merchants. A card, code, or other device is redeemable upon presentation at multiple, unaffiliated merchants if, for example, such merchants agree to honor the card, code, or device if it bears the mark, logo, or brand of a payment network, pursuant to the rules of the payment network.

2. Mall gift cards. Mall gift cards that are intended to be used or redeemed for goods or services at participating retailers within a shopping mall may be considered store gift cards or general-use prepaid cards depending on the merchants with which the cards may be redeemed. For example, if a mall card may only be redeemed at merchants within the mall itself, the card is more likely to be redeemable at an affiliated group of merchants and considered a store gift card. However, certain mall cards also carry the brand of a payment network and can be used at any retailer that accepts that card brand, including retailers located outside of the mall. Such cards are considered general-use prepaid cards.

20(a)(4) Loyalty, Award, or Promotional Gift Card

1. Examples of loyalty, award, or promotional programs. Examples of loyalty, award, or promotional programs under § 1005.20(a)(4) include, but are not limited to:

i. Consumer retention programs operated or administered by a merchant or other person that provide to consumers cards or coupons redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value as a reward for purchases made or for visits to the participating merchant.

ii. Sales promotions operated or administered by a merchant or product manufacturer that provide coupons or discounts redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value.

iii. Rebate programs operated or administered by a merchant or product manufacturer that provide cards redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value to consumers in connection with the consumer's purchase of a product or service and the consumer's completion of the rebate submission process.

iv. Sweepstakes or contests that distribute cards redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value to consumers as an invitation to enter into the promotion for a chance to win a prize.

v. Referral programs that provide cards redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value to consumers in exchange for referring other potential consumers to a merchant.

vi. Incentive programs through which an employer provides cards redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value to employees, for example, to recognize job performance, such as increased sales, or to encourage employee wellness and safety.

vii. Charitable or community relations programs through which a company provides cards redeemable for or towards goods or services or other monetary value to a charity or community group for their fundraising purposes, for example, as a reward for a donation or as a prize in a charitable event.

2. Issued for loyalty, award, or promotional purposes. To indicate that a card, code, or other device is issued for loyalty, award, or promotional purposes as required by § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii), it is sufficient for the card, code, or other device to state on the front, for example, “Reward” or “Promotional.”

3. Reference to toll-free number and Web site. If a card, code, or other device issued in connection with a loyalty, award, or promotional program does not have any fees, the disclosure under § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii)(D) is not required on the card, code, or other device.

20(a)(6) Service Fee

1. Service fees. Under § 1005.20(a)(6), a service fee includes a periodic fee for holding or use of a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card. A periodic fee includes any fee that may be imposed on a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card from time to time for holding or using the certificate or card, such as a monthly maintenance fee, a transaction fee, an ATM fee, a reload fee, a foreign currency transaction fee, or a balance inquiry fee, whether or not the fee is waived for a certain period of time or is only imposed after a certain period of time. A service fee does not include a one-time fee or a fee that is unlikely to be imposed more than once while the underlying funds are still valid, such as an initial issuance fee, a cash-out fee, a supplemental card fee, or a lost or stolen certificate or card replacement fee.

20(a)(7) Activity

1. Activity. Under § 1005.20(a)(7), any action that results in an increase or decrease of the funds underlying a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card, other than the imposition of a fee, or an adjustment due to an error or a reversal of a prior transaction, constitutes activity for purposes of § 1005.20. For example, the purchase and activation of a certificate or card, the use of the certificate or card to purchase a good or service, or the reloading of funds onto a store gift card or general-use prepaid card constitutes activity. However, the imposition of a fee, the replacement of an expired, lost, or stolen certificate or card, and a balance inquiry do not constitute activity. In addition, if a consumer attempts to engage in a transaction with a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card, but the transaction cannot be completed due to technical or other reasons, such attempt does not constitute activity. Furthermore, if the funds underlying a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card are adjusted because there was an error or the consumer has returned a previously purchased good, the adjustment also does not constitute activity with respect to the certificate or card.

20(b) Exclusions

1. Application of exclusion. A card, code, or other device is excluded from the definition of “gift certificate,” “store gift card,” or “general-use prepaid card” if it meets any of the exclusions in § 1005.20(b). An excluded card, code, or other device generally is not subject to any of the requirements of this section. See, however, § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii), requiring certain disclosures for loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards.

2. Eligibility for multiple exclusions. A card, code, or other device may qualify for one or more exclusions. For example, a corporation may give its employees a gift card that is marketed solely to businesses for incentive-related purposes, such as to reward job performance or promote employee safety. In this case, the card may qualify for the exclusion for loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards under § 1005.20(b)(3), or for the exclusion for cards, codes, or other devices not marketed to the general public under § 1005.20(b)(4). In addition, as long as any one of the exclusions applies, a card, code, or other device is not covered by § 1005.20, even if other exclusions do not apply. In the above example, the corporation may give its employees a type of gift card that can also be purchased by a consumer directly from a merchant. Under these circumstances, while the card does not qualify for the exclusion for cards, codes, or other devices not marketed to the general public under § 1005.20(b)(4) because the card can also be obtained through retail channels, it is nevertheless exempt from the substantive requirements of § 1005.20 because it is a loyalty, award, or promotional gift card. See, however, § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii), requiring certain disclosures for loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards. Similarly, a person may market a reloadable card to teenagers for occasional expenses that enables parents to monitor spending. Although the card does not qualify for the exclusion for cards, codes, or other devices not marketed to the general public under § 1005.20(b)(4), it may nevertheless be exempt from the requirements of § 1005.20 under § 1005.20(b)(2) if it is reloadable and not marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate.

Paragraph 20(b)(1)

1. Examples of excluded products. The exclusion for products usable solely for telephone services applies to prepaid cards for long-distance telephone service, prepaid cards for wireless telephone service and prepaid cards for other services that function similar to telephone services, such as prepaid cards for voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) access time.

Paragraph 20(b)(2)

1. Reloadable. A card, code, or other device is “reloadable” if the terms and conditions of the agreement permit funds to be added to the card, code, or other device after the initial purchase or issuance. A card, code, or other device is not “reloadable” merely because the issuer or processor is technically able to add functionality that would otherwise enable the card, code, or other device to be reloaded.

2. Marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate. The term “marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate” means directly or indirectly offering, advertising, or otherwise suggesting the potential use of a card, code or other device, as a gift for another person. Whether the exclusion applies generally does not depend on the type of entity that makes the promotional message. For example, a card may be marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate if anyone (other than the purchaser of the card), including the issuer, the retailer, the program manager that may distribute the card, or the payment network on which a card is used, promotes the use of the card as a gift card or gift certificate. A card, code, or other device, including a general-purpose reloadable card, is marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate even if it is only occasionally marketed as a gift card or gift certificate. For example, a network-branded general purpose reloadable card would be marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate if the issuer principally advertises the card as a less costly alternative to a bank account but promotes the card in a television, radio, newspaper, or Internet advertisement, or on signage as “the perfect gift” during the holiday season. However, the mere mention of the availability of gift cards or gift certificates in an advertisement or on a sign that also indicates the availability of other excluded prepaid cards does not by itself cause the excluded prepaid cards to be marketed as a gift card or a gift certificate. For example, the posting of a sign in a store that refers to the availability of gift cards does not by itself constitute the marketing of otherwise excluded prepaid cards that may also be sold in the store as gift cards or gift certificates, provided that a consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances would not be led to believe that the sign applies to all prepaid cards sold in the store. See, however, comment 20(b)(2)-4.ii.

3. Examples of marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate.

i. Examples of marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate include:

A. Using the word “gift” or “present” on a card, certificate, or accompanying material, including documentation, packaging and promotional displays.

B. Representing or suggesting that a certificate or card can be given to another person, for example, as a “token of appreciation” or a “stocking stuffer,” or displaying a congratulatory message on the card, certificate or accompanying material.

C. Incorporating gift-giving or celebratory imagery or motifs, such as a bow, ribbon, wrapped present, candle, or congratulatory message, on a card, certificate, accompanying documentation, or promotional material.

ii. The term does not include:

A. Representing that a card or certificate can be used as a substitute for a checking, savings, or deposit account.

B. Representing that a card or certificate can be used to pay for a consumer's health-related expenses - for example, a card tied to a health savings account.

C. Representing that a card or certificate can be used as a substitute for traveler's checks or cash.

D. Representing that a card or certificate can be used as a budgetary tool, for example, by teenagers, or to cover emergency expenses.

4. Reasonable policies and procedures to avoid marketing as a gift card. The exclusion for a card, code, or other device that is reloadable and not marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate in § 1005.20(b)(2) applies if a reloadable card, code, or other device is not marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate and if persons subject to the rule, including issuers, program managers, and retailers, maintain policies and procedures reasonably designed to avoid such marketing. Such policies and procedures may include contractual provisions prohibiting a reloadable card, code, or other device from being marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate, merchandising guidelines or plans regarding how the product must be displayed in a retail outlet, and controls to regularly monitor or otherwise verify that the card, code or other device is not being marketed as a gift card. Whether a reloadable card, code, or other device has been marketed as a gift card or gift certificate will depend on the facts and circumstances, including whether a reasonable consumer would be led to believe that the card, code, or other device is a gift card or gift certificate. The following examples illustrate the application of § 1005.20(b)(2):

i. An issuer or program manager of prepaid cards agrees to sell general-purpose reloadable cards through a retailer. The contract between the issuer or program manager and the retailer establishes the terms and conditions under which the cards may be sold and marketed at the retailer. The terms and conditions prohibit the general-purpose reloadable cards from being marketed as a gift card or gift certificate, and require policies and procedures to regularly monitor or otherwise verify that the cards are not being marketed as such. The issuer or program manager sets up one promotional display at the retailer for gift cards and another physically separated display for excluded products under § 1005.20(b), including general-purpose reloadable cards and wireless telephone cards, such that a reasonable consumer would not believe that the excluded cards are gift cards. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) applies because policies and procedures reasonably designed to avoid the marketing of the general-purpose reloadable cards as gift cards or gift certificates are maintained, even if a retail clerk inadvertently stocks or a consumer inadvertently places a general-purpose reloadable card on the gift card display.

ii. Same facts as in i., except that the issuer or program manager sets up a single promotional display at the retailer on which a variety of prepaid cards are sold, including store gift cards and general-purpose reloadable cards. A sign stating “Gift Cards” appears prominently at the top of the display. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) does not apply with respect to the general-purpose reloadable cards because policies and procedures reasonably designed to avoid the marketing of excluded cards as gift cards or gift certificates are not maintained.

iii. Same facts as in i., except that the issuer or program manager sets up a single promotional multi-sided display at the retailer on which a variety of prepaid card products, including store gift cards and general-purpose reloadable cards are sold. Gift cards are segregated from excluded cards, with gift cards on one side of the display and excluded cards on a different side of a display. Signs of equal prominence at the top of each side of the display clearly differentiate between gift cards and the other types of prepaid cards that are available for sale. The retailer does not use any more conspicuous signage suggesting the general availability of gift cards, such as a large sign stating “Gift Cards” at the top of the display or located near the display. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) applies because policies and procedures reasonably designed to avoid the marketing of the general-purpose reloadable cards as gift cards or gift certificates are maintained, even if a retail clerk inadvertently stocks or a consumer inadvertently places a general-purpose reloadable card on the gift card display.

iv. Same facts as in i., except that the retailer sells a variety of prepaid card products, including store gift cards and general-purpose reloadable cards, arranged side-by-side in the same checkout lane. The retailer does not affirmatively indicate or represent that gift cards are available, such as by displaying any signage or other indicia at the checkout lane suggesting the general availability of gift cards. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) applies because policies and procedures reasonably designed to avoid marketing the general-purpose reloadable cards as gift cards or gift certificates are maintained.

5. Online sales of prepaid cards. Some Web sites may prominently advertise or promote the availability of gift cards or gift certificates in a manner that suggests to a consumer that the Web site exclusively sells gift cards or gift certificates. For example, a Web site may display a banner advertisement or a graphic on the home page that prominently states “Gift Cards,” “Gift Giving,” or similar language without mention of other available products, or use a web address that includes only a reference to gift cards or gift certificates in the address. In such a case, a consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances could be led to believe that all prepaid products sold on the Web site are gift cards or gift certificates. Under these facts, the Web site has marketed all such products, including general-purpose reloadable cards, as gift cards or gift certificates, and the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) does not apply.

6. Temporary non-reloadable cards issued in connection with a general-purpose reloadable card. Certain general-purpose reloadable cards that are typically marketed as an account substitute initially may be sold or issued in the form of a temporary non-reloadable card. After the card is purchased, the cardholder is typically required to call the issuer to register the card and to provide identifying information in order to obtain a reloadable replacement card. In most cases, the temporary non-reloadable card can be used for purchases until the replacement reloadable card arrives and is activated by the cardholder. Because the temporary non-reloadable card may only be obtained in connection with the general-purpose reloadable card, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(2) applies so long as the card is not marketed as a gift card or gift certificate.

Paragraph 20(b)(4)

1. Marketed to the general public. A card, code, or other device is marketed to the general public if the potential use of the card, code, or other device is directly or indirectly offered, advertised, or otherwise promoted to the general public. A card, code, or other device may be marketed to the general public through any advertising medium, including television, radio, newspaper, the Internet, or signage. However, the posting of a company policy that funds may be disbursed by prepaid card (such as a sign posted at a cash register or customer service center stating that store credit will be issued by prepaid card) does not constitute the marketing of a card, code, or other device to the general public. In addition, the method of distribution by itself is not dispositive in determining whether a card, code, or other device is marketed to the general public. Factors that may be considered in determining whether the exclusion applies to a particular card, code, or other device include the means or channel through which the card, code, or device may be obtained by a consumer, the subset of consumers that are eligible to obtain the card, code, or device, and whether the availability of the card, code, or device is advertised or otherwise promoted in the marketplace.

2. Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4):

i. A merchant sells its gift cards at a discount to a business which may give them to employees or loyal consumers as incentives or rewards. In determining whether the gift card falls within the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4), the merchant must consider whether the card is of a type that is advertised or made available to consumers generally or can be obtained elsewhere. If the card can also be purchased through retail channels, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) does not apply, even if the consumer obtained the card from the business as an incentive or reward. See, however, § 1005.20(b)(3).

ii. A national retail chain decides to market its gift cards only to members of its frequent buyer program. Similarly, a bank may decide to sell gift cards only to its customers. If a member of the general public may become a member of the program or a customer of the bank, the card does not fall within the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) because the general public has the ability to obtain the cards. See, however, § 1005.20(b)(3).

iii. A card issuer advertises a reloadable card to teenagers and their parents promoting the card for use by teenagers for occasional expenses, schoolbooks and emergencies and by parents to monitor spending. Because the card is marketed to and may be sold to any member of the general public, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) does not apply. See, however, § 1005.20(b)(2).

iv. An insurance company settles a policyholder's claim and distributes the insurance proceeds to the consumer by means of a prepaid card. Because the prepaid card is simply the means for providing the insurance proceeds to the consumer and the availability of the card is not advertised to the general public, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) applies.

v. A merchant provides store credit to a consumer following a merchandise return by issuing a prepaid card that clearly indicates that the card contains funds for store credit. Because the prepaid card is issued for the stated purpose of providing store credit to the consumer and the ability to receive refunds by a prepaid card is not advertised to the general public, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) applies.

vi. A tax preparation company elects to distribute tax refunds to its clients by issuing prepaid cards, but does not advertise or otherwise promote the ability to receive proceeds in this manner. Because the prepaid card is simply the mechanism for providing the tax refund to the consumer, and the tax preparer does not advertise the ability to obtain tax refunds by a prepaid card, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) applies. However, if the tax preparer promotes the ability to receive tax refund proceeds through a prepaid card as a way to obtain “faster” access to the proceeds, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(4) does not apply.

Paragraph 20(b)(5)

1. Exclusion explained. To qualify for the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5), the sole means of issuing the card, code, or other device must be in a paper form. Thus, the exclusion generally applies to certificates issued in paper form where solely the paper itself may be used to purchase goods or services. A card, code or other device is not issued solely in paper form simply because it may be reproduced or printed on paper. For example, a bar code, card or certificate number, or certificate or coupon electronically provided to a consumer and redeemable for goods and services is not issued in paper form, even if it may be reproduced or otherwise printed on paper by the consumer. In this circumstance, although the consumer might hold a paper facsimile of the card, code, or other device, the exclusion does not apply because the information necessary to redeem the value was initially issued in electronic form. A paper certificate is within the exclusion regardless of whether it may be redeemed electronically. For example, a paper certificate or receipt that bears a bar code, code, or account number falls within the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) if the bar code, code, or account number is not issued in any form other than on the paper. In addition, the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) continues to apply in circumstances where an issuer replaces a gift certificate that was initially issued in paper form with a card or electronic code (for example, to replace a lost paper certificate).

2. Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5):

i. A merchant issues a paper gift certificate that entitles the bearer to a specified dollar amount that can be applied towards a future meal. The merchant fills in the certificate with the name of the certificate holder and the amount of the certificate. The certificate falls within the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) because it is issued in paper form only.

ii. A merchant allows a consumer to prepay for a good or service, such as a car wash or time at a parking meter, and issues a paper receipt bearing a numerical or bar code that the consumer may redeem to obtain the good or service. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) applies because the code is issued in paper form only.

iii. A merchant issues a paper certificate or receipt bearing a bar code or certificate number that can later be scanned or entered into the merchant's system and redeemed by the certificate or receipt holder towards the purchase of goods or services. The bar code or certificate number is not issued by the merchant in any form other than paper. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) applies because the bar code or certificate number is issued in paper form only.

iv. An online merchant electronically provides a bar code, card or certificate number, or certificate or coupon to a consumer that the consumer may print on a home printer and later redeem towards the purchase of goods or services. The exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(5) does not apply because the bar code or card or certificate number was issued to the consumer in electronic form, even though it can be reproduced or otherwise printed on paper by the consumer.

Paragraph 20(b)(6)

1. Exclusion explained. The exclusion for cards, codes, or other devices that are redeemable solely for admission to events or venues at a particular location or group of affiliated locations generally applies to cards, codes, or other devices that are not redeemed for a specified monetary value, but rather solely for admission or entry to an event or venue. The exclusion also covers a card, code, or other device that is usable to purchase goods or services in addition to entry into the event or the venue, either at the event or venue or at an affiliated location or location in geographic proximity to the event or venue.

2. Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(6):

i. A consumer purchases a prepaid card that entitles the holder to a ticket for entry to an amusement park. The prepaid card may only be used for entry to the park. The card qualifies for the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(6) because it is redeemable for admission or entry and for goods or services in conjunction with that admission. In addition, if the prepaid card does not have a monetary value, and therefore is not “issued in a specified amount,” the card does not meet the definitions of “gift certificate,” “store gift card,” or “general-use prepaid card” in § 1005.20(a). See comment 20(a)-3.

ii. Same facts as in i., except that the gift card also entitles the holder of the gift card to a dollar amount that can be applied towards the purchase of food and beverages or goods or services at the park or at nearby affiliated locations. The card qualifies for the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(6) because it is redeemable for admission or entry and for goods or services in conjunction with that admission.

iii. A consumer purchases a $25 gift card that the holder of the gift card can use to make purchases at a merchant, or, alternatively, can apply towards the cost of admission to the merchant's affiliated amusement park. The card is not eligible for the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(6) because it is not redeemable solely for the admission or ticket itself (or for goods and services purchased in conjunction with such admission). The card meets the definition of “store gift card” and is therefore subject to § 1005.20, unless a different exclusion applies.

20(c) Form of Disclosures

20(c)(1) Clear and Conspicuous

1. Clear and conspicuous standard. All disclosures required by this section must be clear and conspicuous. Disclosures are clear and conspicuous for purposes of this section if they are readily understandable and, in the case of written and electronic disclosures, the location and type size are readily noticeable to consumers. Disclosures need not be located on the front of the certificate or card, except where otherwise required, to be considered clear and conspicuous. Disclosures are clear and conspicuous for the purposes of this section if they are in a print that contrasts with and is otherwise not obstructed by the background on which they are printed. For example, disclosures on a card or computer screen are not likely to be conspicuous if obscured by a logo printed in the background. Similarly, disclosures on the back of a card that are printed on top of indentations from embossed type on the front of the card are not likely to be conspicuous if the indentations obstruct the readability of the disclosures. To the extent permitted, oral disclosures meet the standard when they are given at a volume and speed sufficient for a consumer to hear and comprehend them.

2. Abbreviations and symbols. Disclosures may contain commonly accepted or readily understandable abbreviations or symbols, such as “mo.” for month or a “/” to indicate “per.” Under the clear and conspicuous standard, it is sufficient to state, for example, that a particular fee is charged “$2.50/mo. after 12 mos.”

20(c)(2) Format

1. Electronic disclosures. Disclosures provided electronically pursuant to this section are not subject to compliance with the consumer consent and other applicable provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) (15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq.). Electronic disclosures must be in a retainable form. For example, a person may satisfy the requirement if it provides an online disclosure in a format that is capable of being printed. Electronic disclosures may not be provided through a hyperlink or in another manner by which the purchaser can bypass the disclosure. A person is not required to confirm that the consumer has read the electronic disclosures.

20(c)(3) Disclosure Prior to Purchase

1. Method of purchase. The disclosures required by this paragraph must be provided before a certificate or card is purchased regardless of whether the certificate or card is purchased in person, online, by telephone, or by other means.

2. Electronic disclosures. Section 1005.20(c)(3) provides that the disclosures required by this section must be provided to the consumer prior to purchase. For certificates or cards purchased electronically, disclosures made to the consumer after a consumer has initiated an online purchase of a certificate or card, but prior to completing the purchase of the certificate or card, would satisfy the prior-to-purchase requirement. However, electronic disclosures made available on a person's Web site that may or may not be accessed by the consumer are not provided to the consumer and therefore would not satisfy the prior-to-purchase requirement.

3. Non-physical certificates and cards. If no physical certificate or card is issued, the disclosures must be provided to the consumer before the certificate or card is purchased. For example, where a gift certificate or card is a code that is provided by telephone, the required disclosures may be provided orally prior to purchase. See also § 1005.20(c)(2).

20(c)(4) Disclosures on the Certificate or Card

1. Non-physical certificates and cards. If no physical certificate or card is issued, the disclosures required by this paragraph must be disclosed on the code, confirmation, or other written or electronic document provided to the consumer. For example, where a gift certificate or card is a code or confirmation that is provided to a consumer online or sent to a consumer's email address, the required disclosures may be provided electronically on the same document as the code or confirmation.2. No disclosures on a certificate or card. Disclosures required by § 1005.20(c)(4) need not be made on a certificate or card if it is accompanied by a certificate or card that complies with this section. For example, a person may issue or sell a supplemental gift card that is smaller than a standard size and that does not bear the applicable disclosures if it is accompanied by a fully compliant certificate or card. See also comment 20(c)(2)-2.

20(d) Prohibition on Imposition of Fees or Charges

1. One-year period. Section 1005.20(d) provides that a person may impose a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee only if there has been no activity with respect to a certificate or card for one year. The following examples illustrate this rule:

i. A certificate or card is purchased on January 15 of year one. If there has been no activity on the certificate or card since the certificate or card was purchased, a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee may be imposed on the certificate or card on January 15 of year two.

ii. Same facts as i., and a fee was imposed on January 15 of year two. Because no more than one dormancy, inactivity, or service fee may be imposed in any given calendar month, the earliest date that another dormancy, inactivity, or service fee may be imposed, assuming there continues to be no activity on the certificate or card, is February 1 of year two. A dormancy, inactivity, or service fee is permitted to be imposed on February 1 of year two because there has been no activity on the certificate or card for the preceding year (February 1 of year one through January 31 of year two), and February is a new calendar month. The imposition of a fee on January 15 of year two is not activity for purposes of § 1005.20(d). See comment 20(a)(7)-1.

iii. Same facts as i., and a fee was imposed on January 15 of year two. On January 31 of year two, the consumer uses the card to make a purchase. Another dormancy, inactivity, or service fee could not be imposed until January 31 of year three, assuming there has been no activity on the certificate or card since January 31 of year two.

2. Relationship between §§ 1005.20(d)(2) and (c)(3). Sections 1005.20(d)(2) and (c)(3) contain similar, but not identical, disclosure requirements. Section 1005.20(d)(2) requires the disclosure of dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on a certificate or card. Section 1005.20(c)(3) requires that vendor person that issues or sells such certificate or card disclose to a consumer any dormancy, inactivity, and service fees associated with the certificate or card before such certificate or card may be purchased. Depending on the context, a single disclosure that meets the clear and conspicuous requirements of both §§ 1005.20(d)(2) and (c)(3) may be used to disclose a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee. For example, if the disclosures on a certificate or card, required by § 1005.20(d)(2), are visible to the consumer without having to remove packaging or other materials sold with the certificate or card, for a purchase made in person, the disclosures also meet the requirements of § 1005.20(c)(3). Otherwise, a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee may need to be disclosed multiple times to satisfy the requirements of §§ 1005.20(d)(2) and (c)(3). For example, if the disclosures on a certificate or card, required by § 1005.20(d)(2), are obstructed by packaging sold with the certificate or card, for a purchase made in person, they also must be disclosed on the packaging sold with the certificate or card to meet the requirements of § 1005.20(c)(3).

3. Relationship between §§ 1005.20(d)(2), (e)(3), and (f)(2). In addition to any disclosures required under § 1005.20(d)(2), any applicable disclosures under §§ 1005.20(e)(3) and (f)(2) of this section must also be provided on the certificate or card.

4. One fee per month. Under § 1005.20(d)(3), no more than one dormancy, inactivity, or service fee may be imposed in any given calendar month. For example, if a dormancy fee is imposed on January 1, following a year of inactivity, and a consumer makes a balance inquiry on January 15, a balance inquiry fee may not be imposed at that time because a dormancy fee was already imposed earlier that month and a balance inquiry fee is a type of service fee. If, however, the dormancy fee could be imposed on January 1, following a year of inactivity, and the consumer makes a balance inquiry on the same date, the person assessing the fees may choose whether to impose the dormancy fee or the balance inquiry fee on January 1. The restriction in § 1005.20(d)(3) does not apply to any fee that is not a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee. For example, assume a service fee is imposed on a general-use prepaid card on January 1, following a year of inactivity. If a consumer cashes out the remaining funds by check on January 15, a cash-out fee, to the extent such cash-out fee is permitted under § 1005.20(e)(4), may be imposed at that time because a cash-out fee is not a dormancy, inactivity, or service fee.

5. Accumulation of fees. Section 1005.20(d) prohibits the accumulation of dormancy, inactivity, or service fees for previous periods into a single fee because such a practice would circumvent the limitation in § 1005.20(d)(3) that only one fee may be charged per month. For example, if a consumer purchases and activates a store gift card on January 1 but never uses the card, a monthly maintenance fee of $2.00 a month may not be accumulated such that a fee of $24 is imposed on January 1 the following year.

20(e) Prohibition on Sale of Gift Certificates or Cards With Expiration Dates

1. Reasonable opportunity. Under § 1005.20(e)(1), no person may sell or issue a gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card with an expiration date, unless there are policies and procedures in place to provide consumers with a reasonable opportunity to purchase a certificate or card with at least five years remaining until the certificate or card expiration date. Consumers are deemed to have a reasonable opportunity to purchase a certificate or card with at least five years remaining until the certificate or card expiration date if:

i. There are policies and procedures established to prevent the sale of a certificate or card unless the certificate or card expiration date is at least five years after the date the certificate or card was sold or initially issued to a consumer; or

ii. A certificate or card is available to consumers to purchase five years and six months before the certificate or card expiration date.

2. Applicability to replacement certificates or cards. Section 1005.20(e)(1) applies solely to the purchase of a certificate or card. Therefore, § 1005.20(e)(1) does not apply to the replacement of such certificates or cards. Certificates or cards issued as a replacement may bear a certificate or card expiration date of less than five years from the date of issuance of the replacement certificate or card. If the certificate or card expiration date for a replacement certificate or card is later than the date set forth in § 1005.20(e)(2)(i), then pursuant to § 1005.20(e)(2), the expiration date for the underlying funds at the time the replacement certificate or card is issued must be no earlier than the expiration date for the replacement certificate or card. For purposes of § 1005.20(e)(2), funds are not considered to be loaded to a store gift card or general-use prepaid card solely because a replacement card has been issued or activated for use.

3. Disclosure of funds expiration - date not required. Section 1005.20(e)(3)(i) does not require disclosure of the precise date the funds will expire. It is sufficient to disclose, for example, “Funds expire 5 years from the date funds last loaded to the card.”; “Funds can be used 5 years from the date money was last added to the card.”; or “Funds do not expire.”

4. Disclosure not required if no expiration date. If the certificate or card and underlying funds do not expire, the disclosure required by § 1005.20(e)(3)(i) need not be stated on the certificate or card. If the certificate or card and underlying funds expire at the same time, only one expiration date need be disclosed on the certificate or card.

5. Reference to toll-free telephone number and Web site. If a certificate or card does not expire, or if the underlying funds are not available after the certificate or card expires, the disclosure required by § 1005.20(e)(3)(ii) need not be stated on the certificate or card. See, however, § 1005.20(f)(2).

6. Relationship to § 226.20(f)(2). The same toll-free telephone number and Web site may be used to comply with §§ 226.20(e)(3)(ii) and (f)(2). Neither a toll-free number nor a Web site must be maintained or disclosed if no fees are imposed in connection with a certificate or card, and the certificate or card and the underlying funds do not expire.

7. Distinguishing between certificate or card expiration and funds expiration. If applicable, a disclosure must be made on the certificate or card that notifies a consumer that the certificate or card expires, but the funds either do not expire or expire later than the certificate or card, and that the consumer may contact the issuer for a replacement card. The disclosure must be made with equal prominence and in close proximity to the certificate or card expiration date. The close proximity requirement does not apply to oral disclosures. In the case of a certificate or card, close proximity means that the disclosure must be on the same side as the certificate or card expiration date. For example, if the disclosure is the same type size and is located immediately next to or directly above or below the certificate or card expiration date, without any intervening text or graphical displays, the disclosures would be deemed to be equally prominent and in close proximity. The disclosure need not be embossed on the certificate or card to be deemed equally prominent, even if the expiration date is embossed on the certificate or card. The disclosure may state on the front of the card, for example, “Funds expire after card. Call for replacement card.” or “Funds do not expire. Call for new card after 09/2016.” Disclosures made pursuant to § 1005.20(e)(3)(iii)(A) may also fulfill the requirements of § 1005.20(e)(3)(i). For example, making a disclosure that “Funds do not expire” to comply with § 1005.20(e)(3)(iii)(A) also fulfills the requirements of § 1005.20(e)(3)(i).

8. Expiration date safe harbor. A non-reloadable certificate or card that bears an expiration date that is at least seven years from the date of manufacture need not state the disclosure required by § 1005.20(e)(3)(iii). However, § 1005.20(e)(1) still prohibits the sale or issuance of such certificate or card unless there are policies and procedures in place to provide a consumer with a reasonable opportunity to purchase the certificate or card with at least five years remaining until the certificate or card expiration date. In addition, under § 1005.20(e)(2), the funds may not expire before the certificate or card expiration date, even if the expiration date of the certificate or card bears an expiration date that is more than five years from the date of purchase. For purposes of this safe harbor, the date of manufacture is the date on which the certificate or card expiration date is printed on the certificate or card.

9. Relationship between §§ 1005.20(d)(2), (e)(3), and (f)(2). In addition to any disclosures required to be made under § 1005.20(e)(3), any applicable disclosures under §§ 1005.20(d)(2) and (f)(2) must also be provided on the certificate or card.

10. Replacement or remaining balance of an expired certificate or card. When a certificate or card expires, but the underlying funds have not expired, an issuer, at its option in accordance with applicable state law, may provide either a replacement certificate or card or otherwise provide the certificate or card holder, for example, by check, with the remaining balance on the certificate or card. In either case, the issuer may not charge a fee for the service.

11. Replacement of a lost or stolen certificate or card not required. Section 1005.20(e)(4) does not require the replacement of a certificate or card that has been lost or stolen.

12. Date of issuance or loading. For purposes of § 1005.20(e)(2)(i), a certificate or card is not issued or loaded with funds until the certificate or card is activated for use.

13. Application of expiration date provisions after redemption of certificate or card. The requirement that funds underlying a certificate or card must not expire for at least five years from the date of issuance or date of last load ceases to apply once the certificate or card has been fully redeemed, even if the underlying funds are not used to contemporaneously purchase a specific good or service. For example, some certificates or cards can be used to purchase music, media, or virtual goods. Once redeemed by a consumer, the entire balance on the certificate or card is debited from the certificate or card and credited or transferred to another “account” established by the merchant of such goods or services. The consumer can then make purchases of songs, media, or virtual goods from the merchant using that “account” either at the time the value is transferred from the certificate or card or at a later time. Under these circumstances, once the card has been fully redeemed and the “account” credited with the amount of the underlying funds, the five-year minimum expiration term no longer applies to the underlying funds. However, if the consumer only partially redeems the value of the certificate or card, the five-year minimum expiration term requirement continues to apply to the funds remaining on the certificate or card.

20(f) Additional Disclosure Requirements for Gift Certificates or Cards

1. Reference to toll-free telephone number and Web site. If a certificate or card does not have any fees, the disclosure under § 1005.20(f)(2) is not required on the certificate or card. See, however, § 1005.20(e)(3)(ii).

2. Relationship to § 226.20(e)(3)(ii). The same toll-free telephone number and Web site may be used to comply with §§ 226.20(e)(3)(ii) and (f)(2). Neither a toll-free number nor a Web site must be maintained or disclosed if no fees are imposed in connection with a certificate or card, and both the certificate or card and underlying funds do not expire.

3. Relationship between §§ 1005.20(d)(2), (e)(3), and (f)(2). In addition to any disclosures required pursuant to § 1005.20(f)(2), any applicable disclosures under §§ 1005.20(d)(2) and (e)(3) must also be provided on the certificate or card.

20(g) Compliance Dates

1. Period of eligibility for loyalty, award, or promotional programs. For purposes of § 1005.20(g)(2), the period of eligibility is the time period during which a consumer must engage in a certain action or actions to meet the terms of eligibility for a loyalty, award, or promotional program and obtain the card, code, or other device. Under § 1005.20(g)(2), a gift card issued pursuant to a loyalty, award, or promotional program that began prior to August 22, 2010 need not state the disclosures in § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii) regardless of whether the consumer became eligible to receive the gift card prior to August 22, 2010, or after that date. For example, a product manufacturer may provide a $20 rebate card to a consumer if the consumer purchases a particular product and submits a fully completed entry between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010. Similarly, a merchant may provide a $20 gift card to a consumer if the consumer makes $200 worth of qualifying purchases between June 1, 2010 and October 30, 2010. Under both examples, gift cards provided pursuant to these loyalty, award, or promotional programs need not state the disclosures in § 1005.20(a)(4)(iii) to qualify for the exclusion in § 1005.20(b)(3) for loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards because the period of eligibility for each program began prior to August 22, 2010.

20(h) Temporary Exemption

20(h)(1) Delayed Effective Date

1. Application to certificates or cards produced prior to April 1, 2010. Certificates or cards produced prior to April 1, 2010 may be sold to a consumer on or after August 22, 2010 without satisfying the requirements of §§ 1005.20(c)(3), (d)(2), (e)(1), (e)(3), and (f) through January 30, 2011, provided that issuers of such certificates or cards comply with the additional substantive and disclosure requirements of §§ 1005.20(h)(1)(i) through (iv). Issuers of certificates or cards produced prior to April 1, 2010 need not satisfy these additional requirements if the certificates or cards fully comply with the rule (§§ 1005.20(a) through (f)). For example, the in-store signage and other disclosures required by § 1005.20(h)(2) do not apply to gift cards produced prior to April 1, 2010 that do not have fees and do not expire, and which otherwise comply with the rule.

2. Expiration of temporary exemption. Certificates or cards produced prior to April 1, 2010 that do not fully comply with §§ 1005.20(a) through (f) may not be issued or sold to consumers on or after January 31, 2011.

20(h)(2) Additional Disclosures

1. Disclosures through third parties. Issuers may make the disclosures required by § 1005.20(h)(2) through a third party, such as a retailer or merchant. For example, an issuer may have a merchant install in-store signage with the disclosures required by § 1005.20(h)(2) on the issuer's behalf.

2. General advertising disclosures. Section 1005.20(h)(2) does not impose an obligation on the issuer to advertise gift certificates, store gift cards, or general-use prepaid cards.