By Amy Feldman

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Nothing says ‘I ran out of time and patience at the mall, here you go’ quite like a gift card.

According to a recent report by Consumer Reports, more than a quarter of people who received gift cards for the holidays last year haven’t used them yet. When asked why, 37% said they hadn’t found anything they’d wanted to buy, 36% didn’t have time to go shopping, and 34% had forgotten about the card(s).

Good news for you gift card holders, the law protects your not-so-precious gift. Federal rules for both gift cards that can be used at the store from which you buy it and bank gift cards say those cards can’t expire for at least 5 years from the date the card was purchased.

If the expiration date listed on the card is earlier than that, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost. And ‘inactivity fees’ can be charged only after a card hasn’t been used for at least one year, and then only once per month. That said, no law’s going to protect you against your own disorganization so go ahead and use that card before you lose it, at least to buy a present for the thoughtless gift giver for next Christmas.

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