I live in Washington state. My (state) college requires all freshman to pay at least $500 per quarter into a meal account. We are given a card that allows us to purchase food and household products from several on-campus vendors. The account is in dollars with a declining balance, and prices for purchases with the meal card are the same as for purchases with cash or credit, except that no tax is charged. The rub is that no refunds are allowed past 30 days, and refunds within 30 days are charged a 10% “administration fee.” Additionally, any remaining balance is forfeited at the end of the academic year.
So, my question is this: Is it legal for my college to zero my meal account balance at the end of the year? The most analagous situation that I could think of were gift cards, where you also pay a certain amount of money and get a card with a balance. My understanding is that the US Supreme Court ruled that gift cards can never expire, but can become the property of the state they were issued in if they go unclaimed for a certain amount of time. Washington state law prohibits this, saying that gift cards remain the property of the owner forever. State law also prohibits charging of fees and inactivity or dormancy charges for gift card accounts.