The chaos of holiday shopping is about to explode, but many people would rather buy a gift card than spend hours shopping for the perfect gift. Gift cards are appealing partly because of the assumption that they are foolproof. The person receiving the card eventually picks out their own gift and they know what they want better than anyone so what’s not to love about gift cards? Gift cards may be the only gift where the giver is happy to see the gift being returned to the store. As happy as the person giving the gift card may be, they aren’t nearly as delighted by the whole gift card thing as retailers are.
For starters, the recipient of the gift card often puts the card toward a more expensive purchase, using a $40.00 to buy something for $60.00 for example. The gift card acts more like a big deposit for something the recipient wants than a gift in itself. This assumes the recipient finds something they like to use the gift card for. As an employee I once received a gift card for $5.00 towards a local sandwich restaurant from my supervisor. It was a nice gesture that may have been appreciated by other employees who received the card, but since I didn’t like the food at that particular restaurant, the gesture was wasted, and so was the gift card, I eventually lost track of the gift card and it never got used. You should always be familiar with the places the person you are giving the gift card to frequents before giving them a gift card. Billions, yes that’s billions with a B, of gift cards go unspent every year.
If the gift card isn’t used within a specific time frame certain type of companies like banks, credit-card companies and most malls who issued the gift card can apply monthly maintenance charges that reduce the value of the gift card. This means the value of the gift card will be worth less than what the purchaser originally paid for the card. These monthly charges can potentially wipe out a card’s value if the card is not use by a specific date. Some companies that issue gift cards charge a fee for replacing gift cards that are lost or stolen. On the other hand, most retailers will not replace lost or stolen gift cards. If the retailer happens to go out of business before the card gets used the card becomes worthless. Gift cards sold by retailers usually don’t have fee to them, but they do have expiration dates and restrictions on where the card can be used. Always check the fine print that comes with a gift card and include this information with the gift card when giving the card to the recipient.
If the gift card in question doesn’t have a lot of strings attached, then there are times when a gift card can be both appropriate and personal. For the person who sees shopping as more of a calling than a chore, shopping for their own gift at one of their favorite stores may be more of a treat for them than it would be for you. For the person who is so strapped for cash they are more concerned about the grocery bill than buying cute shoes, a gift card to a superstore like Target or Walmart allows everyone to save face. You can deliver the superstore gift card along with some sort of comment that you simply didn’t know what to get them and you are sure they will be able to find something they like at that store. Don’t ask later what they spent the card on, they might not want to discuss how they spent you generous gift on toilet paper and food staples.
For the house proud do it yourselfer a gift certificate to a hardware store shows them that you support their efforts. For the budget conscious recipient who’s sensible spending practically guarantees a cash gift will be spent on something boring like socks, a gift certificate for something they wouldn’t splurge on themselves, like a visit to a local beauty salon or something lacey from Victoria’s Secret, encourages them to indulge a little. For someone who you have shared special experience with, a gift certificate that refers to that happy memory is both sentimental and practical. If the happy memories involve watching movies together for example, a gift card to movie retailer says thanks for the memories, I look forward to creating new ones.
Gift cards are one of the easiest most convenient gifts to buy. Gift cards can be purchased online at any time and you don’t have to worry about them not having a certain size or style in available. When ordering a gift card online, print out your receipt for the purchase just like you would do for any other purchase. Like any other gift, it’s the thought that counts. When you match the right gift card to the right recipient everyone is happy.
For more money saving ideas check out The Cheap Diva's Guide to Frugal and Fabulous Living: How to Shop Smart, Look Your Best, Decorate with Style, and Have Fun for Less Money!