Can you get a refund on a gift card? Daly City man stuck with over $200 on Starbucks card after girlfriend died

DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) — Gift cards bring great joy, but they can also waste a lot of money. Recently, 7 On Your Side’s Michael Finney met a man from Daly City who had a blast using one of his gift cards to please his girlfriend. But when he died, the gift card was no longer useful.

His name is Donald Choy and he says his girlfriend passed away unexpectedly. She loved coffee, so Choy made sure she got plenty of Starbucks from a gift card he kept reloading.

“I got the card for my girlfriend and then when she passed away,” Choy said, “you know, I didn’t need it because she drank coffee and I didn’t.”

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Starbucks are everywhere, so he thought he’d call them and tell them he had a card he no longer needed, with a balance of $231.22.

“So I explained that to them,” Choy said, “and he was like, ‘We used to refund and now we don’t refund. So I said, what do you want me to do with the card? He said, “Well, we’ll send you another card.” I said, for what?

Since Choy broke up with Starbucks, he’s come to 7 On Your Side for help. Before reaching out to Starbucks, 7 On Your Side spoke with top gift card expert, Shelley Hunter. She is the gift card girlfriend on

She told 7 On Your Side how to get money back with a gift card: “Gift card sales are final, money is transferred to this gift card and only a few businesses, under specific circumstances, decide to do it, but they really don’t need to.”

7 On Your Side contacted Starbucks and explained that this was a special situation involving a death, and asked if they could find a way to refund the unused portion of the card. Turns out they could, and called Donald Choy to tell him a check was on the way, which made Choy very happy.

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Choy said, “Well, yeah, because if it wasn’t for you, they probably would’ve dropped it, let it go, and don’t refund me.”

So before you buy a gift card, remember that it’s money that can be used, but rarely refunded.

Hunter says there’s an exception to this rule: “In California, if you have a gift card, once the value drops below $10, you can collect that gift card at that merchant.”

The 7 On Your Side team would like to thank Starbucks for refunding the unused portion of the card. Starbucks didn’t have to. Now remember this when you buy a card: they are not refundable.

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

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