Are vouchers worth the time

Vouchers as a gift: This is how long they are valid

Time limit

If you take a close look at your voucher, you will surely find something like "redeem by ..." or "valid for two years" somewhere. So you have to redeem your voucher within a certain period of time.

In the majority of cases, such a time limit is regulated in the small print, the general terms and conditions, and is usually not legally objectionable; because you have to allow the dealer to calculate his inventory in certain periods of time.

If the deadline is too short, however, it is ineffective, so that you can still demand that the voucher be redeemed after the deadline has expired. The Munich Higher Regional Court has already ruled in two judgments that a gift voucher for a purchase of goods from an internet retailer may not be limited to one year (judgment of January 17, 2008 (29 U 3193/07) and judgment of April 14, 2011 (29 U 4761 / 10)). In this case, a period of validity of only one year represents an unreasonable disadvantage for the consumer. If the period of validity is too short, the voucher is valid until the statute of limitations.

What applies if the shop refuses to redeem the voucher when the deadline has expired?

You can then no longer request the voucher to be redeemed, but in our opinion you are entitled to have the monetary value of the voucher reimbursed. In our opinion, the provider must reimburse you for the monetary value in return for the voucher. Because he received money for this voucher from your donor at the time. If he were allowed to keep this, he would be unjustifiably enriched, as the lawyers say. However, the trader may withhold his lost profit; after all, if the voucher had been redeemed on time, he would have made a sales deal. How high this lost profit can be is a question that must be answered on a case-by-case basis. However, if the statute of limitations has occurred and the provider refers to it, then you can no longer demand any more money. The Oldenburg Regional Court decided on August 20, 2013 (Az. 16 S 702/12). This also applies if the voucher period was too short.

Statute of limitations: how long are vouchers valid?

Even if no time limit is noted on a voucher, the voucher cannot be redeemed for an unlimited period of time. Generally one applies Limitation period of three years. Subsequently, the provider neither has to redeem the voucher nor reimburse the monetary value noted on it minus its lost profit. That is why you also need an unlimited voucher at the latest Redeem within three years. However, the period only begins at the end of the year in which the voucher was purchased. Example: For your birthday, you are presented with a voucher that was purchased in May 2019. You must redeem this voucher by December 31, 2022 at the latest.

Voucher for the theater - special redemption period

Sometimes the redemption period depends on the type of service. For example, if you have been given a voucher for a specific theater performance, it goes without saying that the voucher can only be redeemed during the season of this particular play.

What applies if the customer would rather receive the cash amount paid out?

If business does not respond to this demand, you are in bad luck. Because the retailer is not obliged to pay you the amount of money, as the gift voucher was intended to be redeemed for goods. This often results from the general terms and conditions printed on them, which stipulate that cash payments are not possible.

Can a gift voucher be redeemed in part, piece by piece?

You were given a voucher worth 50 euros and would like to purchase a book for 12 euros in January, a CD for 15 euros in February and a sweater for 23 euros in March in the X department store. Such partial redemptions are not regulated by law. As a recipient of the gift, however, you may have a legitimate interest in partial redemption. If these partial services are reasonable for the dealer and do not mean a loss for him, nothing should stand in the way of this. So you should take the point of view that the retailer must also partially redeem the voucher. The remaining amount can then be noted on the old voucher or given in the form of a new credit note. On the other hand, the customer is not entitled to the payment of the remaining amount of the voucher.

There are vouchers that name the recipient. Is redemption only possible for the named person?

As a rule, a voucher is transferable so that it can also be redeemed by another person. Because the business does not care which person redeems the voucher. With "gift vouchers" it is of course certain from the start that they will be passed on to someone. If a name is written on the voucher, it is only intended to give the voucher a personal touch. However, this does not mean that only the recipient can redeem the voucher.

Exceptions only apply if the service from the voucher is tailored to a very specific person or if the promised service requires certain requirements that not everyone meets (e.g. health requirements for a balloon flight).

Can the provider ask for an additional payment if the service has become more expensive in the meantime?

It all depends on what the voucher was issued for. If it is a voucher for a certain amount of money, for example 30 euros, you may have to pay more for a certain service if the service has become more expensive in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the voucher describes a certain service - for example a "foot massage", we believe that price increases in the meantime are irrelevant.

What happens if the provider becomes insolvent?

The voucher can no longer be redeemed when bankruptcy proceedings are opened. Anyone who has a voucher that has expired in this way, however, has a claim against the provider, who is now bankrupt. You can register this with the insolvency administrator for the so-called "insolvency table". All demands come in one pot. If the company's assets are realized and the insolvency proceedings are concluded at some point, everyone who is entitled will receive a certain share of their claim. However, this proportion is usually well below five percent of the original voucher amount.

If the provider is not insolvent, but has simply given up or closed its business, the vouchers, on the other hand, retain their value in our opinion. If redemption at the company is no longer possible due to the closure of the business, the provider must therefore reimburse you for the value of the voucher.


As you can see, a voucher can sometimes cause problems. When purchasing a voucher, pay attention to a possible redemption period and inquire whether the voucher can also be redeemed in partial amounts. You must redeem unlimited vouchers by the end of the third year after purchasing the voucher. If you want to avoid possible problems completely, simply give away a voucher that you have made yourself.