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Illinois residents who received gift cards from previous holiday seasons may be able to redeem them for cash even after the gift cards expire, according to Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

The State Treasurer’s Office is holding more than $5 million in unused gift card balances for Illinois residents. Under state law, gift cards can not expire for five years and businesses are prohibited from charging fees that diminish their value, said the State Treasurer’s Office. 

“Allowing for longer usage and bans on fees mean that gift cards won’t stop giving and deters businesses from using them as sales gimmicks,” Mr. Giannoulias said. “Even when gift cards expire, consumers are entitled to the monetary worth of the gift card and can recover their money from the state.”

 Owners of expired gift cards may search for their refunds on the state’s unclaimed property database at or by calling (866) 458-7327. 

Even if a name is not listed, the state may still hold a consumer’s unused balance. Unredeemed gift card balances may come to the state marked as “owner unknown.” In order to receive a refund for the unused balance, the purchaser or recipient must file a claim with the Treasurer’s Office using the serial number on the expired gift card. 

Not all retailers that do business in Illinois send unclaimed gift card balances to the Illinois Treasurer’s Office. Unused gift card balances are sometimes remitted to the state where the retailer is incorporated.