Gift cards. They may feel impersonal to some but they are the godsend for the last-minute shopper or the ones looking for the perfect gift for the person who "has everything". How many of them do you have in your wallet right now from this past Christmas?

First, check them to see if there is an expiration date. Then read on.

The Iowa Attorney General's office says gift cards can expire

They legally can have an expiration date, but you have quite a bit of time to use them. Gift cards issued in Iowa cannot expire for at least five years, which means they can also technically be issued to be valid forever. But KCRG uncovered some businesses that have found a workaround. They may issue the card for less than five years, but still have to honor it for that length of time. Why? They do it to get people in their store.

A spokesperson with Attorney General Tom Miller's office says this workaround is pretty common so before you panic, talk with the retailer to make sure they will offer you more time to use it "in good faith".

Still, it's a good idea to use the gift card as soon as possible

It's not just beneficial to the support of local businesses, which is a good thing. What if that business, unfortunately, goes out of business before the expiration date of the card? Sadly, a very common thing these days because of the pandemic. Try to get a gift receipt from the giver in case you physically lose the card and need a replacement. Before giving or receiving the card, make sure it hasn't been "tampered" with. For example, that little greyed-out sticker on the back of the card? That's a PIN number and if it's been scratched off before you get it, you can tell it's been messed with.

You can read more about Iowa's "rules" for gift cards here.

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