California fire victim finds forgotten $2,000 in emergency gift cards, but they had expired, can she still cash out?

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) — The wildfires devastated the lives of so many Californians, including a North Bay woman who lost everything in 2017. Then, just recently, she stumbled upon a forgotten gift: prepaid debit cards given to her by charities, worth thousands of dollars. The only problem? They were expired. Could she still cash them?

Marti Brennan won’t soon forget the night she ran away from home.

“A friend called and said you know, get out there, the fires are really happening,” she said. “I grabbed a pillow and some blankets and the clothes I was going to wear the next day.”

Brennan never thought the fire could reach her house.

“There was a picture of my mom when she was two…and I thought, should I take it with me? I thought, no, I’ll be back tomorrow,” Brennan said.

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But she wasn’t.

“He just came in and said, the house is gone. And I said, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Completely gone,'” she said. “It was a little unbelievable. It was a little surreal.”

Brennan spent months moving from place to place, struggling to rebuild her life. During the crisis, wildfire relief groups provided four gift cards loaded with $500 each.

“And I just put them in an envelope, ‘Oh I’ll use them later.’ And I totally forgot about them. I totally forgot about them,” she said.

Brennan finally allowed herself to be rummaged through the papers of that terrible time…then a surprise, as if rising from the ashes.

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“And there I found the cards and I was like, ‘Oh! Whoa, that’s a lot of money,” she said.

Brennan thought she had just found $2,000 buried in those cards – until she saw the expiration date.

August 2020.

“I was ready to cut them up and throw them away because I was like, well, they’re no good,” she said.

Brennan’s son told her the gift cards couldn’t expire under California law. He contacted the bank.

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“‘We’ll get back to you,’ and they never did,” he said. “That’s when I said to call Michael Finney.”

It turns out that bank cards like these are exempt from those gift card laws; they are allowed to expire.

However, after 7 On Your Side contacted US Bank, the company told Brennan that it would replace the cards with new ones, claiming they had never been activated.

“They said, ‘We’re going to refund you the full amount of each card, and you should get them in the mail in two weeks,'” Brennan said.

Really like rising from the ashes.

Many thanks to the American bank for getting that money back for Brennan. Just a side note, the gift card law applies primarily to retailers and restaurants that sell gift cards for their own stores. These cards cannot expire. But bank cards are not bound by this rule.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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