TN 100 (12-07)

SI 00830.522 Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

Citations:Soc. Sec. Act, as amended, sections

1612(a)(2)(C) , 1612(b)(3) and 1612(b)(7) ;

20 CFR § 416.1121(f) .

A. Policy

1. Gift Cards/Gift Certificates as Income

The value of a gift card/gift certificate is income in the month it is received if the gift card/certificate:

  • Can be used to purchase food or shelter; or

  • Can be resold.

Absent evidence to the contrary, presume a gift card/certificate can be resold. For example, evidence to the contrary may include a legally enforceable prohibition on resale or transfer of the card imposed by the card issuer/merchant printed on the card.

The value of the gift card/certificate is subject to the general rules pertaining to income and income exclusions. See SI 00810.410 for the infrequent or irregular income exclusion policy.

REMINDER: Any unspent balance remaining on a gift card/certificate is a resource beginning the month following the month the gift card/certificate was received. If personal property is obtained with the gift card/certificate, it must be evaluated under the SSI resources policy.

NOTE: A gift card/certificate is not ISM.

2. Gift Cards/Gift Certificates Not Income

The value of a gift card/gift certificate is not income in the month it is received if the gift card/certificate:

  • Cannot be used to purchase food or shelter; and

  • Cannot be resold.

In addition, if the individual does not have the right, authority, or power to convert or sell the gift card/certificate for cash, and it cannot be used to purchase food or shelter, then the gift card/certificate would not meet the definition of a resource in SI 01110.100.

NOTE: A gift card/certificate that is restricted on its use, and is legally prohibited from resale, must be evaluated (case by case) based on the restrictions and or prohibitions for determining income for SSI purposes.

The restriction on use of a gift card/certificate can be legal, (imposed by the card issuer), or practical, (the store where the card must be redeemed does not sell food or shelter items).

B. Procedure

1. Tolerance for Valuing

Accept an individual's statement either signed or recorded on a DROC of the actual value of the gift card/certificate, unless you have reason to doubt the allegation. If you doubt the individual’s allegation, determine the item's value with the source of the gift card/certificate, purchase receipt, vendor’s website if available, or the gift card/certificate itself. See SI 00810.020 Forms and Amounts of Income and SI 01110.400 for Valuation of Resources

Document the file per GN 00301.285 through GN 00301.289.

2. Apply Appropriate Rules

Determine the nature of the gift card/certificate and apply the appropriate operating instructions pertaining to income and income exclusions.

3. How to Count Gift Cards/Gift Certificates

STEPACTION

1

Does the individual have the right, authority, or power to convert or sell the gift card/certificate for cash?

If YES,

  • Count the value of the gift card/certificate as cash income in the month it is received, subject to the rules pertaining to income and income exclusions, and

  • Count any unspent balance remaining on the gift card/certificate as a resource beginning the month following the month the gift card/certificate was received, subject to the rules pertaining to resource and resource exclusions. STOP

If NO, go to STEP 2.

2

Can the individual purchase food or shelter with the gift card/certificate?

If YES,

  • Count the value of the gift card/certificate as cash income in the month it is received, subject to the rules pertaining to income and income exclusions, and

  • Count any unspent balance remaining on the gift card/certificate as a resource beginning the month following the month the gift card/certificate was received, subject to the rules pertaining to resource and resource exclusions. STOP

If NO,

Do not count the value of the gift card/certificate as income. Also, the gift card/certificate would not meet the definition of a resource (See SI 01110.100.) However, you must evaluate items obtained with the gift card/certificate based on the SSI resources policy.

C. Examples

1. Gift Card/Gift Certificate is Income

Example 1: Bernie receives an award settlement in the form of a Xmart gift card worth $3100. (See Awards, SI 00830.515.) There is no restriction on the use of the gift card in Xmart stores, nor is there any legally enforceable prohibition on its resale. Treat the gift card at its face value as unearned income in the month it is received, subject to the rules pertaining to income and income exclusions for SSI purposes. Any remaining value on the card is a resource beginning the month following the month the gift card was received, subject to the rules pertaining to resource and resource exclusions.

Example 2: Mrs. Garcia receives a $200 Visa gift card from a friend for use at any locations where Visa debit cards are accepted, including retail stores and online merchants. The gift card includes a prohibition against the beneficiary selling the card to another individual, applying the value as a payment to a store credit card account, or redeeming the card for cash. Thus, it is restricted on its use. However, it can be used to purchase food or shelter items. We treat the Visa gift card as unearned income based on its value ($200) in the month that it is received, subject to the rules pertaining to income and income exclusions for SSI purposes. Any unspent balance remaining on the card is a resource beginning the month following the month the gift card was received, subject to the rules pertaining to resource and resource exclusions.

2. Gift Card/Gift Certificate is Not Income

Mr. Blacksmith receives a $100 Office Warehouse gift certificate from a friend for use at any Office Warehouse store. The gift certificate is restricted for use to purchase only office supplies and has a legally enforceable prohibition on its resale. Since the beneficiary cannot use the gift certificate to purchase food or shelter, nor can he/she sell the gift certificate for cash, do not count the gift certificate as income and it does not meet the definition of a resource. (See SI 01110.100 Distinction Between Assets and Resources).

3. Gift Card/Gift Certificates Excluded from Income

Example 1: Mrs. Evans receives a $50 gift card from her daughter for her birthday. She did not receive any other income from her daughter during the calendar quarter. Therefore, exclude the gift card as infrequent/irregular income. If the gift card is not spent as of the first of the following month, it is a countable resource, subject to the rules pertaining to resource and resource exclusions.

Example 2: Following a hurricane, which was a presidentially declared disaster, FEMA distributed gift cards for affected individuals to provide emergency supplies. Exclude the gift cards from income and resources as disaster assistance (see SI 00830.620 and SI 01130.620.)

D. References

Awards, SI 00830.515

Expenses of Obtaining Income, SI 00830.100

Forms and Amounts of Income, SI 00810.020

Gifts, SI 00830.520

Guide to Unearned Income Exclusions, SI 00830.099.

Income Exclusions, SI 00810.007

Infrequent or Irregular Income Exclusion, SI 00810.410

Receipt of Certain Noncash Items, SI 00815.550

What is Income, SI 00810.005

$20 General Income Exclusion, SI 00810.420


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http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0500830522
SI 00830.522 - Gift Cards and Gift Certificates - 07/20/2009
Batch run: 07/20/2009
Rev:07/20/2009