LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When it comes to gift cards, California laws have stricter consumer protections than federal law, but both work together to make sure your gift card doesn’t become a useless piece of plastic.

CBS2/KCAL9’s Erica Nochlin explains what consumers need to know:

  • Gift cards from one particular store can never expire, unless the store goes out of business. If a store does go out of business, there’s not much a consumer can do other than file a claim in court.
  • An exception to that rule: gift cards that were part of a promotion, for free or less value than its worth. Those promotional cards can usually be exchanged for store credit.
  • Law mandates promotional gift cards that do expire need to list the expiration date in clearly visible font.
  • Store gift cards can be exchanged for cash, as long as it’s for $10 or less.
  • Walmart will exchange certain gift cards for a Walmart e-gift card, but participants may not get 100 percent of the original value.
  • You can exchange your gift card for cash on websites, such as www.giftcards.com, but make sure you’re dealing with a trusted source.
  • California doesn’t have specific rules about mall gift certificates, which can be used at a variety of stores, so those can expire. Again, the expiration date must be clearly visible on the card.
  • Federal law guarantees that prepaid Mastercard and Visa gift cards are good up to five years from the time the card was purchased.

Hopefully, these tips will ensure you get the most out of your gift cards.