Ask the Readers: Do Gift Cards Make a Good Gift?

By Linsey Knerl on 13 October 2009 (Updated 20 October 2009) 112 comments
Photo: arvind grover

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Comment #20 Luke - Gift cards are great for those cousins / relatives who seem to have everything they could possibly need / want... A big one is teens since they are constantly changing there minds on whats cool and hip. I'll give them gift cards and there much happier with that then with a gift that was so last year, or something they would have to stand in line at the busy return counter to return. Plus an added benefit is the sales pop up right after Christmas and they can get more band for the buck!

@DoBatsEatCats  i LOVE getting gift cards, i'm picky and like to shop myself. rarely give them though as people seem to get offended. 4 days ago from web

 

Gift card sales are highest during the holidays, and for good reason. For the hard-to-buy-for friend or relative, they may be the ONLY way to ensure that your gift was appreciated and put to good use. A more traditional school of thought, however, insists that putting more time and careful selection into your gift is warranted — making gift cards an "easy way out" for far too many.

I have to admit that I'm torn on the issue. Getting a present I can neither use or appreciate is frustrating (especially when it's an item of clothing that I feel obliged to wear regardless). Getting a gift card, on the other hand, usually ends up with me buying something for someone else, groceries, or gas (hardly a "treat" in itself).

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What do you think? Are gift cards a cop-out or the perfect present for picky people? Do you find that they make the process of gifting easier? Would you prefer to receive one? Or are you a more traditional giftee?

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Guest's picture
Rosa

Gift cards are great for people you don't know very well - there are all these occasions when I'm buying for a coworker who is leaving/getting married/having a baby, or for someone my partner is related to, etc. They're about exactly as personal as choosing something off a gift registry, and a lot less work.

But it's infuriating when someone who is supposed to know and love you does the gift-card thing - it's just like, yeah, I couldn't bother to put any time or thought into this so here. I would rather just not get a gift.

Guest's picture
MichaelM

I think gift cards are acceptable in many cases. I don't want my wife or mother-in-law buying tools or electronics for me. In those two categories I am fairly particular about my needs and wants. eg. Crescent wrenches -- they're as likely to give me a set of metric generic brand ones as imperial unit craftsman (either of which may be fine, but I don't need metric units at the moment).

They're also useful when someone wants to contribute towards a larger goal. My MIL gave me a $150 BestBuy certificate for my birthday last year, which was to be applied towards getting a Wii. She knew I wanted a Wii, but didn't want to spend that much on me.

On the other hand, if I gave my wife a gift card for our anniversary, there had better be a darn good reason. It might fly if it's a gift card for a spa treatment or something...

Guest's picture

Honestly, gift cards are the gifts that give TWICE--first when you recieve it and second when you use it. They are my favorites!

Thanks,
Jill

Jill's recent post: My Funny Valentine.

Guest's picture
Stacey07

Some people are so difficult to buy for... but you just can't beat the personal touch of a well-chosen gift.

It may sound greedy, but I was actually disappointed when we got cash for our wedding gifts. My husband's family spread the word that we were looking for cash gifts (don't know where they got that idea), and we didn't have a single gift to open after the reception. I view milestone ocassions as a great chance to show how much you know and appreciate the person - and you don't have to spend a lot of money to make your feelings known.

A $20 bill or gift card just doesn't express the same amount of affection. If you don't know the person well enough to pick out something they'll really like, you probably shouldn't be exchanging "gifts" or gift cards with them.

Guest's picture

Almost all of our family and friends are not local. We don't travel to them (who can afford 7 plane tickets?), and they don't travel to us, so gift cards are the perfect no-stress gift to mail. And I appreciate them in return. I have one or two relatives who still prefer to send cash (checks), and while that's nice it does usually go to bills. At least a gift card I know I'll get something out of it, even if it's stuff for the house - I consider a well-stocked cleaning closet a gift in and of itself. No extra shipping costs, no lines at the post office or UPS/FedEx store, no finding a perfect-sized box and filling material, no early deadlines. I'm all about reducing stress in December.

Guest's picture
Debra

I always enjoy getting gift cards, but I know that sometimes people would rather get a gift. It depends on the person and what they want. If I can't afford to purchase their whole gift but want to chip in toward something they really want, a gift card is a great way to go. Also, if I want to send a gift to someone out of state, I like gift cards because I don't have to worry about budgeting for shipping as part of the price of the gift.

Guest's picture
Kristin

I think that, as with gifts, it's best for a gift card to reflect the likes and interests of the person receiving the gift as opposed to the giver imposing his/her likes and interests on the receiver (trust me, my parents did the latter for many years).

My teen-aged nieces love to receive Barnes and Noble gift cards because they can pick out the books that they want to read, whereas if I gave them Discover Store gift cards, they would likely not get used (or the gift that was purchased would languish).

When a cousin was going through a tough time medically, financially, and emotionally, I sent her an e-gift certificate for Amazon.com with a couple of suggestions for items that I thought might be helpful and a request that she get a little something for her young son. I don't think that gift was perceived as lacking thought or care.

Guest's picture
Corwin

I give gift cards to family that live far away & I happen to know for sure that they shop at the store the card is issued for. This lets them get what they really want, cuts out returns (if I gave something they really didn't want), and saves on shipping a large gift across the states. I also have a few friends that wouldn't use a gift card for years, and it would probably expire before use, so I give an actual gift to them.

Guest's picture
Guest

Assuming you know the person you are giving a gift to that should be the determining factor, for some it makes sense for other… maybe not. Giving my brother a gift card it perfect, he can use it and doesn’t have to move it. Just don’t give me one (unless the alternative is something I don’t want or need), I treat it like cash and therefore have a very hard time spending it. If and when I do- it’s most likely on a “practical” item. If I like you I would much rather spend time together and DO something together. That way I don't have more 'stuff' do deal with to a holiday or birthday.

Guest's picture
Ashley G

My way of thinking is you should be greatful for any gift no matter what it is. If I buy you a gift card, I took the time to choose the vendor and purhase it. If you didn't like the gift I would have chosen otherwise, I saved you the time of returning it. You will probably get more value out the giftcard because if I bought you an item I would have gotten it on sale, so I'm spending more money on you this way. I've given you options: you can buy several small items, put the card toward a larger item, save it until the item you want is on sale so you get more value from the card. There are some instances when gift cards are inappropriate (such as an anniversary gift to a spouse), but for the most part they are a great gift.

Guest's picture
valletta

but you need to know your recipient.
I don't give gift cards to my mother in law, for example. She has everything so sentimental items like jewelry are appropriate for her but my nephew, who loves iTunes get Apple gift cards and is happy to be able to choose his own music, books, etc.
There are also unique gift cards, like your local sports team. It's more convenient to buy a gift card for a ballgame than to choose a date and buy a ticket for someone else.

Guest's picture
Laura

Not for your spouse (that would be a cop out) but otherwise it is still a nice gift.

Guest's picture
jbd

First of all, i think it is so funny that the giveaway is for a gift certificate. too funny. Now that that is out of the way, There is nothing more thoughtful than a gift card. less clutter for my house, less hassle for buyer- perfect for folks who live far away- saves on shipping!! I think they can be thoughtless but that isn't always the case. I get and give giftcards even on anniversaries. My music loving husband always as things he wants to buy at iTunes or Amazon. They aren't given as thoughtless gifts or received as such when they truly reflect the receiver's goals and interests.

Guest's picture
Jacie

As a teacher who has received many "teacher presents" I love gift cards, especially for bookstores, Amazon.com and Starbucks! So much better than a mug! :)

Guest's picture
Kathryn

Gift cards are a good idea if any of the following apply:

- The person in question likes shopping. You are essentially giving them a shopping trip.
- The recipient is unemployed or in financial distress. In this case, gift cards are a GREAT idea.
- You know of a really great store that the person in question would like, and you're pretty sure he/she doesn't yet know about it. It's fun to visit a new store and have money to spend that isn't yours.
- The recipient is saving for a large purchase, and your gift card can be put towards it.

Otherwise, they are at best too much of an easy out, and at worst, just thoughtless. My father really dislikes shopping and often had unused gift cards after the holidays until we agreed to spend his gift cards on his behalf. This is just a waste.

Guest's picture
M. Wong

I hate gift cards. They are just more pieces of plastic that go right into the landfill after one use. Just give cash!

Guest's picture
Jolyn

I think gift cards are great for teachers and other such recipients to whom you want to express your appreciation for your services but you don't know them well enough to pick out something personal, but cash is too tacky.

For others, if I don't know what to give them (such as teenage relatives) I will just gift them some cash. I would only give someone I know personally a gift card if it was for something I knew they loved: a specific bookstore; a massage; their favorite restaurant; etc.

Guest's picture
Tim

Gift Cards are great...nobody knows what I want better than me, give me the means to get it. My only complaint is make sure you use non restaurant cards, favs are Amazon and Home Depot/Lowes

Guest's picture
Denise

I am a giver of gift cards mainly because I usually can't think of the perfect gift. On occasion I will find something that is just right for a particular person but that is a rareity. Reading the comments previously written, many people are stating that gift cards are impersonal and that they feel slighted by the giver for not having put effort or thought into the gift. I think it depends on where the gift card is from. I am usually a practical gift giver because that's normally what I like to receive. If I can't use it for something, the item has much less value to me. My husband has tried to teach me that a gift can be special if it is a luxury or treat. Something you wouldn't normally do for yourself. My favorites are Starbucks & Victoria Secret. Even though I love the overpriced cappucinos at Starbucks I can't in good conscious pay $5 for a cup of coffee. However if someone has given me a gift card--well....
I think you can put just as much effort into a gift card as the item itself.

Guest's picture
Luke

Gift cards are great for those cousins / relatives who seem to have everything they could possibly need / want... A big one is teens since they are constantly changing there minds on whats cool and hip. I'll give them gift cards and there much happier with that then with a gift that was so last year, or something they would have to stand in line at the busy return counter to return. Plus an added benefit is the sales pop up right after Christmas and they can get more band for the buck!

Guest's picture
Kelli

I like knowing that a person is really REALLY going to like what I get them, so if I can't find something, I get a gift card for them. I don't think they're tacky. In fact, I rather enjoy them myself. It allows me to buy things for myself that I ordinarily wouldn't spend the money on.

Guest's picture
Treacle

I won't turn down a gift card, but I honestly find myself wondering why the person couldn't just give me cash.

Especially with all the strings attached to gift cards and reports of so many stores going out of business, they don't seem like the wisest present this holiday season.

Guest's picture
Colin

A few years ago I discovered a gift certificate that any store accepts; it never expires; its balance never decreases; it is completely transferable; it can be mailed or given in person or over the internet; and it's existed for centuries. And I'd bet 99.9999% of you have at least one of these certificates on you right this very second. Heck, banks have automated machines to dispense these wonderful certificates.

Not only do all stores take them but there are vending machines that take them as well!

And you wouldn't believe me if I told you but people have been killing each other for centuries for them.

They're really cool too as they are usually decorated with famous people and have intricate artwork on them and everyone recognizes them instantly.

They're brilliant!

Guest's picture

I am picky, so I love getting gift cards. Plus, using a gift card is more efficient in the sense that after-holiday sales are much better than pre-holiday sales, so you can get more for less. I think that if the gift card is to a place that you know a person will enjoy shopping at then it is a thoughtful gift.

Another thing, even if it is just a gas card or gift card to a grocery store, that's money you don't have to spend on these necessities and you can spend on something you truly enjoy. I think that it still provides enjoyment.

Guest's picture
Quill

I wouldn't give one to my mother--she finds them impersonal--but my brother understands perfectly that I don't love him the less for giving him the choice. The Internet sort are also great for last-minute presents when someone's far away.

Guest's picture
Danille

I don't pay full price for anything. I can not see me buying a gift card. I do, however, like getting them if they are visa type or to a store I regularly shop at, Safeway or Amazon maybe. Gift cards are spendthrift purchases I think.

I gave my daughter an itunes gift card once. She had a new ipod and not much music of her own. Now she is pregnant and at her shower if spendthrifts want to get her gift cards to target, where she is registered, I'm sure she will love it. My college student son loves Fred Meyer gift cards because he can get gas, groceries, prepared food, clothes, well like they say " You'll find it at Freddys."

Guest's picture
Dick

Gift cards are more of a gift to the store than the Person receiving the gift. Most are pure profit as they are not redeemed. From my perspective a gift card is the best way possible to say that I don't care about you, who you are or what you need but for various reasons I am forced to give you a present.

Guest's picture
Kate

I agree with the general opinion that gift cards make great gifts in circumstances where you aren't really sure what other gift to give, but that they aren't the best for gifts for people you are very close to (spouses, etc). And I personally love receiving them as well.

Guest's picture
Suzette

I'll give a gift card--usually along with a homemade treat of some kind--as a gift to a friend. And I like getting them myself. Trader Joe's or Barnes and Noble or Amazon are the best for my friends; like me, they use them for little luxury purchases that they wouldn't necessarily make themselves.

Guest's picture
Jim

I like gift cards. Only caveat is that the gift card has to be for a merchant that I'm interested in and can use. I don't want a gift card for a shop I never go to or a restaurant I don't like.

Guest's picture
Guest

Giftcards work fine with me and Cash is even better!

Guest's picture
Lynda

I think it depends on who it is for. It could be good for people you don't know very well, as a group gift (so that you can give a larger denomination), or if you know for sure that the person really likes a particular store and wouldn't mind a gift card. I personally love gift cards, but I am picky as to which stores I spend money at, so they are iffy for me.

Guest's picture
Amy

I don't mind gift cards, and sometimes I specifically ask for them from friends and family. I am reluctant to buy them for others unless they ask for them, but I do agree that some people are just tough to shop for.

On the other hand, I heard of a service the other day which lets you donate gift cards, which are in turn used to benefit a charity. If I end up with ones I don't want, I may consider it.

Guest's picture
Emily

It really depends on what the gift card is for. If it's for a store or restaurant that the person loves, then it's a nice idea. But if it's for something really obscure or a store not located nearby, it's rather a waste. Of course, if you're going to give money, it almost might just be better to go with cash or check. Then they can do whatever they want with it - save it, spend it, etc.

Guest's picture
Rhonda

I think gift cards can be great gifts, but as with any gift it helps to know your receiver at least somewhat. Cash is nice but it's very easy for it to get rolled into bill-paying money. With a gift card you can let someone know you are thinking of them, and would like to buy something for them at a retailer you think they would like, but they get to pick out the actual gift. I don't see that as thoughtless at all. If you know your recipient really doesn't like to shop or has mobility issues that make it difficult for them to do so, I probably would not go for a gift card. I'd much rather receive a gift card so that I can carefully pick something out, rather than receive a gift that I don't want or need. Even if I "spend" the gift card on a gift for someone else, I would be grateful and consider that a good gift. It took care of a need for me and did not add to my clutter!

Guest's picture
CSims

Gift cards have the possibility of being a very thoughtful gift. Maybe you live on the lower east side of Manhattan and adore a tiny coffee shop. A gift card will allow you to indulge without feeling like you are wasting money. Ditto for any number of niche establishments.
However, it is far more difficult to make a chain store gift card special. Hearing "Here, because I know you love books" along with a $15 certificate for B&N is the opposite of thoughtful.

Guest's picture
Russell

One area where gift cards are really helpful is in buying media for the recipient; I have no way of knowing which books my mother has installed on her Kindle, or what music my best friend has in his iPod. (Well, not comprehensively). A gift card allows them to expand their media library, in a way that generates no additional physical traces.

Guest's picture
lisa

I love gift cards. It's hard for someone to pick out the right item sometimes. And they work well for people who are far away. No shipping costs! I get them for my mother-in-law, who is on a fixed income. She can use them for stuff she needs, or stuff she wants, depending on how tight her budget is.

Guest's picture
Guest

All gifts should be mindful gifts, and if you've thought long and hard and think that a gift card is the best option to give someone, go for it! I would never give one to my Mother-in-law who's 90 and would never redeem it, because it wouldn't be a thoughtful gift. But my nephew at college, it's perfect for. And if I give him a gift card to someplace like Amazon, he can use it for some music or electronics item that I would have no idea about. But that same gift card to my MIL - that would put me in the dog-house for the duration! As long as it's a thoughtful choice and not an excuse for being lazy, they are perfect!

Guest's picture
GT0163C

I think a lot of it depends upon the type of gift card and the person you are giving it to. If there's a good bit of thought behind the giftcard and/or it's what the receipient really would like, I think it's fine.
I gave a new friend a gift certificate to the Cheesecake Factory for her birthday recently. I don't know her that well but know that she loves cheesecake and that she and her fiance are sometimes out that way to see movies. I thought they might enjoy stopping for dessert and coffee after a movie. Similarly, her soon-to-be-brother-in-law gave her a number of gift certificates for local restaurants in the city where she and her fiance moved to (Restaurant.com worked well for that). My brother-in-law is difficult to buy for but listens to audio books and music at the gym regularly. He really appreciates iTunes giftcards. My mom usually sends me a $5 Target giftcard with my Valentine's Day card so that I can go buy myself some chocolate. It's cheaper than buying and sending the chocolate herself, I get to pick out exactly what I want and the sentiment is understood. And, if I wait until the day after Valentine's, I get twice the chocolate for the same price. :)

That said, there are times when giftcards are a bit of a copout. As a volunteer youth work, I sometimes get gift cards for Starbucks from "my kids" for Christmas or my birthday. I really appreciate the sentiment, but I don't do coffee or those type of beverages. I usually end up using them to get a sandwich of a cookie in an airport when I'm traveling. My sister has also received gift cards with odd amounts and for stores that she doesn't shop at from her in-laws. Regifting gift cards, especially partially used ones, is never the way to go.

Guest's picture
Megan

Gift cards are the only way to go for teenagers. Even THEY don't know what they really want!

Guest's picture
Guest

I think gift cards are great. I enjoy giving them if I know the person will use them for a gift, and I love getting them. One practice I've used is to make sure I send a "thank you" to the person after I've purchased something letting them know what I got. This way, I tend to use it for something meaningful (not just gas and food), and it keeps the personal touch in there.
Gift cards also let me give in to the "impulse buy" that I never otherwise allow myself.

Guest's picture
Another Beth

I treat gift cards as any other gift -- if it's something someone wants and would use, then it's a good idea. If they think it's thoughtless or convenient, than it's not a good idea.

I usually ask before I buy. A lot of friends and family have a favourite hobby supply store and enjoy treating themselves to something new (and they get to shop the seasonal sales too!)

Guest's picture
fairydust

I love getting gift cards for places I would normally go (specific restaurant cards, for example) or would normally shop (Wal Mart, Giant, Wegmans). If it's for some more exotic place that I don't normally frequent, well, hey I'm up for a trip to check it out. So yeah, I'll take gift cards any time!

I do give them sometimes when I'm really at a loss for a gift idea, or don't know the person well, or know that the person loves to shop at a specific place. But usually I try to come up with a gift idea first. For newlyweds and newlygraduates, we just give cash :)

Guest's picture
carol l

Perfect gifts for service personnel such as Mailman, paperboy and teachers. For family and good friends I prefer a personal gift that some thought was made in the purchase or making.

Guest's picture
kimberly

I still feel like they are a little tacky, especially if they are obviously from the check-out line. Exception would be if it's for a particular store or restaurant that you really know I love and would want to have a card to.

Guest's picture
lvlln

I like giving them because I'm lazy, and I like getting them because they're just as good as cash. And if they're for some luxury or fun store, they give me an excuse to "splurge" on myself with something I wouldn't normally buy, and I get to choose what it is.

Guest's picture
Guest

I somewhat disagree with points that previous people have made regarding giving spouses GC's. My hubby often gives me one for a spa! Which is great because sometimes I may want a massage or a mani/pedi, etc. It's nice to have the choice, I understand that he took the time to choose the spa and that he did put some level of thought into the gift.

Guest's picture
Gradchica

Agreed, generally not for spouses or friends/relatives you know would be offended.

However, my parents, for example, need nothing--they are downsizing their home & are desperately trying to get rid of stuff. Buying them a physical gift (and alas, they don't drink and can't eat rich food, so even foodie-type gifts won't fly) would not be appreciated. So what does that leave? Restaurant or theater gift cards, ideally chosen to suit their tastes.

You are giving the gift of an experience--a "splurge" dinner, a play, etc. Also nice for people who are perhaps a bit too practical. You could get them that new vacuum or you could "force" them to have some fun and relax with a gift card to the spa or beauty shop.

That being said, I get reliably good gifts from very few people in my life--my mom, my husband...and that's about it. If I want a decent gift I won't have to try and return, I either have to ask for it specifically (ie, wishlist), which feels rather rude and pushy to me, or hope for a gift card.

Guest's picture
Amy

I LOVE getting gift cards if they are for businesses I frequent. I have received GCs for stores that I have to pull up a map online & get directions to get there. That can be annoying & takes away from the pleasure of the gift... Although, it's better than an item of clothing in the wrong color or size... At least you get to buy what you want!

I rarely give gift cards unless it's for a teenager.

Guest's picture
Angela

When I was a kid, my parents used to give me money instead of presents for birthdays and holidays. As a child, I really hated that because there's really nothing like a beautifully wrapped present that contains a well chosen gift.

That said, how many people will actually be able to select a non-monetary present for someone they're not especially close to? While I'd be disappointed if my husband gave me a gift card, I'd be perfectly delighted with one from someone else who would have otherwise chosen something ugly, useless, bulky or all three.

My kids are very happy to receive gift cards from their friends and more distant relatives. Unless it's for a store that they really don't like, they ALWAYS find the opportunity to cash in their cards.

Guest's picture
ryan

yes, because they have some versatility while still being somewhat personal.

Guest's picture
VBunny

Accepted anywhere and for anything. Sure, a well thought out gift is preferred and often cheaper, but cash gets spent gift cards kinda sit there. And if I've received a greenback from someone, when I see what I do want (often at a store with out credit card abilities let alone gift cards) I am more likely to go for it and classify it in my head "so and so's birthday present to me". :)

Guest's picture
Carolyn O.

I think gift cards are a great idea because they can be tailored to the person, just like any gift. For instance, I love target and amazon.com so someone who knows me might give me a gift card to either of those places and it's because they know me and they know I love them! I also am always having to buy books (for school or otherwise) and so bookstore gift cards are always welcome. I've even been given grocery store gift cards that were such a nice surprise because I could buy some specialty items that I might not normally buy.

Guest's picture
Dory

I love gift cards. They are great gifts, especially when they are for something you know the recipient loves and spends a good deal of money on. They're also great if you need to get a gift for someone you don't know very well. I can't think I've even been disappointed when receiving a gift card.

Guest's picture
Andrea

I think it depends on the occasion and how well you know the person. For example, when I was pregnant with my first child, I really appreciated getting gift cards as baby gifts. But those gift cards were mostly from people that we didn't know well--close family and friends gave us actual gifts.

Guest's picture
Dory

I love gift cards. They are great gifts, especially when they are for something you know the recipient loves and spends a good deal of money on. They're also great if you need to get a gift for someone you don't know very well. I can't think I've even been disappointed when receiving a gift card.

Guest's picture
Kelli

I love giving and receiving GCs. Some of my friends and family members are just so picky that I'm extremely limited in what I can give them, so GCs work very nicely. It may not be the most creative or original present in the world, but it is still thoughtful. Many people enjoy shopping and can treat themselves to something they may not otherwise buy with a gift card or they can get something they need but may not have been able to afford. GCs also work well for acquaintances that you don't know super-well but you'd feel a bit tacky or awkward giving cash to. I always use up my GCs. I don't mind getting them as gifts at all.

Guest's picture
cwaltz

They come in handy for wants and NEEDS. There have been times when things were going less than perfectly that I've been grateful to have that Home Depot gift card in our possession or to be free to splurge on the Monopoly deal game and some sodas because I had that Kroger gift card. While some may turn up their noses at the idea that they aren't personal enough I find it just as thoughtful to tell someone that they can choose their own book from Barnes and Noble as it is for someone to pick out a book that I might like (but also might have read because let's face it I go through a bunch of books). That's just my personal opinion though.

Guest's picture

I say this will a grain of salt; gift cards can be great. However, if it's a gift card to a place the person rarely shops or eats at, then not so great.

For instance, I love receiving Starbucks gift cards for my birthday and over the holidays. I'm there everyday, and if I can save my $2.50 on a daily basis for a few days, that's money in my pocket.

However, I've also received gift cards to places I don't shop or eat. Then, I have to decide if I'm going to sell them on ebay or stick them in a drawer for another person's gift. (I've done this before, re-gifted a gift card :) )

-Little House

Guest's picture
Trang

They're a total cop-out, but I really enjoy receiving them for some reason. It gives me an excuse to go to Borders or Starbucks when I usually wouldn't. :) Cash is always better, though.

Guest's picture
Selene M.

Yes, gift cards are a cop-out but I think people would rather get a gift card than something they can't use or don't want.

Gift Cards certainly make giving a gift easier for me. I love receiving them!!!

Guest's picture
Christy N

I love receiving gift cards, even from close friends and family. For me, gift cards are like receiving two gifts -- one gift when I receive the card, and the other when I use the card.

Plus, since I am a bit of a frugalista, I can do some research before my purchase to make sure I get the most out of my card.

Guest's picture
Sally

I prefer cash to giftcards. If you don't know me well enough to get me a "real" gift... why are you giving me a gift at all?

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Stefanie

Gift cards are great, as long as the giver gets one for a store that the giftee will enjoy.

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Carron

I'm a broke college student, and I love gift cards! sometimes I use them for myself, and other times, they mean I can actually get gifts for others. gift cards have meant at times I am able to buy groceries, or I'm able to have necessities that I was desperate need of but couldn't get otherwise. Then there are also times that I get to have fun things. One gift card was randomly given to me for a place that I'm not a fan of, but one of my best friends loves. I was broke but wanted to give her a graduation gift because I love her dearly. The card meant I was able to give her something she'd like and let her know that I care. I know regifting isn't always nice, but when you have nothing else and you want to give something, it's better than not.

Basically, the practicality of them win me over.

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Amber

They're like cash, but conditional. I fail to see why a $20 gift card to The Gap is better than a $20 bill.

With a gift card:
-It will probably get lost
-You will probably forget to take it with you when you go to the required store
-The longer you take to use it, the less value, both from outrageous usage fees, expiration dates, or plain old inflation
-The receiver is forced to use the card at the store of your choosing. Maybe they don't even *like* The Gap but are now required to spend money there
-The user is often required to shell out their own dough to get the item they really "want" (but probably would not have purchased if you hadn't given them this "gift")

With a $20 bill:
-They spend it on whatever they want, whenever they want.

Our money culture is completely ridiculous in considering a $20 gift card a "gift" whereas a $20 bill is somehow insulting or didn't require enough thought.

Oh, and I guess you shouldn't get me started on Hallmark either...

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Brandon Purificacion

I really think gift cards are not the way to go when looking for a present for someone. A gift card is basically restricted money in a card which can only be used in one specific store (unless it is a VISA gift card which is AWESOME). I really feel people use gift cards as a way to easily get a gift after spending 5 minutes looking around a store not knowing what to get.

When people give gift cards, the amount is usually more than someone would like to spend on somebody. Since I am in college I try to be frugal and try to spend as little as I can. If I see a present somebody could possibly want, I will get it if it is cheap, $20 or less, because it shows that I care enough to get them a present rather than a gift card. Additionally, say I end up giving them a present that is $15 plus tax, which will be another $1.50 or so depending on where you live, I would be saving $3.50 if I ended up giving her that present than a $20 gift card.

My advice? Go to Target and find a gift. Hopefully you'll spend less money than giving a gift card they might not even shop at!

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Andrea

When I was younger (16-18yrs) I loved getting gift cards, because I had all the time in the world to shop for the things I *really* wanted. Now, if I'm given one as a gift I often forget about it because I don't often go out to shop for myself. Except for gas cards, I try to avoid them.

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Therese

I think gift cards are good when you aren't going to see the person and are just sending a gift.

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Bobbi

I love gift cards. The kids in my family are at the age where it is hard to buy for them and they would rather have gift cards to go get what they want. Most of what they buy are computer games and I have no idea what games they already have. It is just easier.

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Angie

I believe giving a gift card/certificate to a specialty store or for a specific service (mani/pedis are always a delight) is a thoughtful solution to the conundrum.

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Nanandco

Gift cards can be thoughtful if they are tailored to the receipient. I like to do a gift basket with gift cards - for example, I'll put a really nice travel mug together with a Starbucks gift card for a coffee lover, or a handmade shopping bag with a Target gift card.

Like other posters have commented, you have to know the person you're gifting, and whether or not it will be appreciated. Personally, I like receiving them because I'm a frugal shopper and can get great bargains! I love the feeling of not spending my own money!

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brzl

Gift cards have a more effort presentation the cash but are nearly as good whereas many other gifts may or may not be a hit. Personally I enjoy giving restaurant.com cards bc it gives lots choice to your giftee to find a place they want to eat at wherever they are. Visa cards are just annoying.

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Guest

I personally like to receive a gift card. In fact I just used two to purchase a nice leather purse I've been admiring for over a year at the local mall. Without the gift cards I probably wouldn't have spent the $$$.

My in-laws refuse to give gift cards because they feel it is not personal enough. They would rather give ill-fitting sweaters, small appliances, and other things I don't need or want. They ask every year for a Christmas list but never get anything off the list. . .very frustrating. After a year I either give these items away or sell them at a yard sale.

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Brenda

I love gift cards as long as they are to places I like. Often I get a card from the giver's fav store, not mine...so just be sure you are looking at their interests not yours!

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Olivia

Sure it's more fun to rip off wrapping paper and ribbons, but for mailing things long distance, (all our relatives are), nothing beats gift cards. Some family members are always strapped for cash and if I can "earn" gift cards from survey sites, we can give them bigger, more flexible gifts (think Kmart or Walmart) than we could with just the cash we have. We still send a little homemade something with the cards, so it's not impersonal, but we don't end up blowing our entire gift budget on postage either. Some years have been heavy hitters, where postage is more than the gift. OUCH

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kasey

My dad usually slips in some "bonus" gift cards for grocery stores or WaWa or something at Christmas time - they are the best surprise!!

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Guest

I personally like receiving and giving gift cards.

We have lots of friends and family who choose to shop online. Some companies waive their shipping costs so the person gets to choose their gift without extra cost and can get more with online deals.

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A gift card is a fine gift -- it's still more thoughtful than cash, and unless you know what someone wants really specifically, it gives them a variety of choices.

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Connie

Actually getting a gift card, helps me do two things I love. It can help me get a great deal. And I love giving to others, for me it really is a treat. So gift cards rule for me

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Lisa

I didn't know until last year that your bank will give you a visa gift card without the activation fees you pay at supermarkets and places like walgreens.

I think they are the best gift ever. but I don't usually use store gift cards. I prefer to do visa gift cards because they can be used anywhere.

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ksmedgirl

I would rather have the cash instead of the gift card. I have received gift cards to movie theatres (I hate the idea of spending money to see a movie), Wal-mart (I don't like to support that company with my business), the local mall (I rarely buy anything there), and so on. I find that I am having to work awfully hard to spend these gift cards. If somebody thinks they need to give me a gift (which I don't endorse anyway) then I would rather just have the cash so I can spend it in a place and a way that is meaningful and helpful to me. I rarely give them, either, for the same reasons.

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Jonathan

I, for one, love gift cards, especially if they come from a specialty store that I like (i.e. bookstore). I can buy something for pure entertainment and enjoyment value. Cash and generic GC's like Visa and MC cards are good, but I confess I have used them in the past to pay bills or buy groceries, so it's not much fun. It's like receiving the gift of irresponsible and reckless spending.

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Stephanie

As long as its to a place they know I frequent, gift cards are great for me! At this point in my life, cuttind down on expenses is more important than having a nice new candle or bath bubbles. I give them if I think someone is in a similar situation, but prefer handmade or more personal gifts when it's appropriate.

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Guest

When my daughter was a teenager, we just could not buy clothes that she liked. But she knew what she wanted. The first time we gave her a $50 gift card for Christmas, she brought home bags of clothing. She found items she loved on clearance and accessorized and created a complete wardrobe. She is a better shopper than her parents!
Also, my parents are at a stage in life where they don't want more "stuff" when we give gifts. But dinner and a movie or their choice of a good book at Barnes & Noble are welcome gifts.
So I am now sold on gift cards.

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Kim_Mango

I admit it, I have gifted gift cards to my nephews because I simply don't know what they want. For their birthday this year, I knew that they wanted a new video game each but I didn't know which was the latest and greatest video game, I didn't know what their mother would approve of, and I didn't know what system they were using at the moment.

It's a cop out, but I decided to give them a gift card and let them pick out what they wanted.

Problem is, it's neither personal nor memorable. I won't remember their birthday gift this year and either will they.

Gifting is tough for 10-13 year old boys, in my opinion, and gift cards are easy.

Best,
Kim

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Teresa

Absolutely! Gift cards are awesome. I love receiving them as gifts and usually get positive responses when gifting them to others. Great post! Thanks!

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Guest

I personally love getting and giving gift cards. I am extremely too picky and I like practical gifts not just stuff that will take up more room and make more clutter. Give me a gift card so I can buy what I need, not just something that won't be used.

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Diana

I personally like to recieve a gift card as a gift. When I get a gift card I am able to buy something I need or want. I do not tend to use them on family members or something for my family. I know that it is a treat for myself. I like to buy gift cards for others to, that way I know that they can get something they want, instead of me buying them something that they really don't like and they pretend to love it. To me gift cards are the way to go. People do not have to pretend that they like what you got them, they always seem to be very please when they recieve the gift card.

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Shelly

I love to get gift cards myself and have resorted to gift cards for the younger generation in my family. Many times I have bought a gift only to hear "sighs" and then "Thank you" that was not very heart felt. I would rather give the gift card and get a resounding "Oh Thank you" and a great big hug.

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L. Michelle

Love them! As a teacher, gift cards are a welcome surprise. Though I do enjoy the homemade treats like peanut brittle, who wouldn't, I have a lifetime supply of perfume and candles. In this economy, I have used every gift card such as those from Barnes and Noble, Target, and ice cream stores. I also received one from Hobby Lobby . . . I can always find something. It is a flexible, useful gift. Even a small amount such as $5 are greatly appreciated.

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Guest

Gift cards are like cash, only not quite as good. Especially scary this Christmas as stores teetered on the edge of oblivion.

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Bucksome

My parents are older now and really have everything they need. I buy them gift cards to restaurants as they enjoy going out to dinner, but don't always spend the money on this pleasure.

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Sharon J

I like getting gift cards, but often I do end up using it to buy gifts for other people.

This year, I made a wishlist on amazon.com and etsy.com, so people know what I want. I have things ranging from $10 to $100. Also, people can get a sense of what I like to receive. I encourage all my friends to do the same, so I know what they want.

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Sean

Depends, if the gift was selected with a little care, then yes. I once received a shopping mall gift card, and there wasn't any store in that particular mall I was excited about.

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Olivia

I feel that gift cards are a bit thoughtless. They are an easy out when you are unable to think of a gift for someone.

I know some people who adore and prefer receiving gift cards, however, because they get to buy exactly what they want.

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Lilith

sometimes it is the best gift, when you choose the right shop! Antique jewelerry gift card for my dance-sisters, book shop gift card for the bookworms, ... then they can choose the best gift , one they really want!

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Guest

I personally believe that the gift of reading is wonderful for recipients of all ages. I have stopped purchasing books for the most part but when I receive a gift card for a book store, I get to buy those titles I covet but would not normally buy for myself. Is the gift card impersonal? Perhaps it is but I am happy that people remember me and am not slighted that they didn't go out to hand pick something which I may have no use for, may not be to my taste and may cause the giver more insult when I don't use or wear it or need to exchange it.

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Erin

I think it all depends on the person. I personally love to get gift cards, and sometimes choosing the right store shows just as much thought as choosing the right gift.

The thing is, we are too hung up on ourselves. Gifts are what they are...free. If someone wants to give you a gift and they choose a gift card, be happy they wanted to give you anything at all! We should be more thankful for what we do receive and less selfish because we didn't get exactly what we want. Hate to be the one to tell you, but its not all about you!