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

By Linsey Knerl on 13 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).

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

I love to receive and give gift cards. The catch to them is not to get gift cards that you can use on others.I like gift cards from places that I won't be temped to buy something for my kids. NO WALMART CARDS unless you are giving a large amount for the entire family to share. Keep the cards personal like purchasing gift card or certificates at speciallty store. I purchase Gift card for the movie theatre and a resturant and place a IOU babysitting receipt so our freinds can truly have a night out on me. By keeping it personal gift cards can still be a wonderful gift to give and receive.

Guest's picture

I love getting gift cards. I have family members who ask for a list but then completely ignore it, opting to instead purchase random crap that I don't need. I only WISH they'd get me a gift card instead.

Guest's picture

I personally don't like to give or get gift cards; however there are certian people and cases where a gift certificate is the best option. For instance, for Boss's Day tomorrow we all chiped in to get the boss a gift card. It seemed more appropriate than any other gift.

Guest's picture
Mariel Martinez

I believe they are the perfect gift. One: Because not not everyone that loves you can know for suer what you want, or they may not be able to afford giving you exactly that. Two: Because if they buy you something, it may not be perfect or what you actually want (some people may consider asking people around you and they may have a different concept of what you want, and then create even more social tension) and 3: Because you can save that money for something for later; why receive a present or treat yourself only for your birthday or christmas or something like that? Why not save it for a rainy day? It´s the perfect gift: No expiration date, no problems about the selection (if it´s within the price range and the store) and, no pressure on how to spend it...

Guest's picture

Good grief, what a bunch of snobs and spoiled brats most of these commenters are! One should be grateful for ANY gift, no matter what the form. Why in the world should a gift card be considered offensive or thoughtless? I enjoy giving them and I love to get them, from anybody, even my husband--and I don't feel it is a cop-out. All this talk about putting so much effort into picking out the perfect gift is ridiculous and affected. It says, I am so damned important that you had better spend lots of time figuring out exactly what I want, regardless of the possible time and/or financial constraints you have upon you.

Shame, shame, people!

Guest's picture

Gift cards are especially nice for those of us who have to travel far to see family for the holidays. With all the extra baggage fees and what not that airlines are charging, it's nice to not have to lug back a bunch of presents and get charged $50 for the privilege. Besides, I try to use gifts cards as I think the givers intended: to buy myself something fun!

Guest's picture

I agree to gift cards, especially from certain people. My MIL and FIL, and SIL, never ask what we would like for gifts and I always ask for a gift. My mom always asks for a list because she knows that we do not spend much on ourselves so she asks what we would like because she knows she can get us something we wouldn't normally buy ourselve. One SIL doesn't ask for a list but she listens and always purchases a gift she has noticed we needed or wanted. I always tell the other in-laws we would love gift cards but instead we get things like velour jumpsuits (in white no less) or Disney clothes. Always the Mickey Mouse sweatshirts. I would much much rather have a gift card if they aren't going to take the time (like I do) to get us something we need or want.

Guest's picture
Denise Clemons

Grandkids + giftcards = Success!! Tired of giving "lame" gifts at Christmas; wrapping and packaging and mailing to a lukewarm reception, my new tradition of sending giftcards has made everyone in my family happier and more relaxed for the holidays. A little "pre-holiday research" (read: conversation with their mothers) makes the gift cards personalized to their greatest potential. Thank you whoever invented them!! Woohoo!

Guest's picture

They're only good gifts when NOT used as the easy way out.

When you're not sure what specific model/version/etc, they're a good idea. Explain what you wanted to get them and why you didn't just get it and then let them go get the perfect one. (I know you wanted to pick up a copy of Lord of the Rings, but I didn't know if you'd want the director's cut or not.)

When the card is for something they love to do, but you weren't quite sure what they'd want. (Gift certificate to a yarn store for a knitter when you know nothing about yarn)

When the card directly relates to something you do together. (Wii points card for someone you get together and play video games with)

If you can not complete the following sentence, don't get a gift card. "I'm getting (the person) a card to (store) so that he/she can (do this specific thing)."

They always mean more when you explain them with a card too. Like the second example could say, "I always see you knitting things for other people. This is so you can make something for yourself." See? That's really sweet of them.

Guest's picture
Scott cash, and CASH is better! Our family was suffering from gift card 'oversaturification' - lots of cards, from lots of people, that had lots of rules, and unfortunately had lost lots of there initial luster. So I decided to create a better alternative and after much evolution, the Original Gift Card was born. Its the always-in-style, freedom-to-choose, never-expiring, always-know-the-balance, perfect-fit, better alternative to the gift card. Check it out!

Guest's picture

Be sure the gift card is for a store or place it will be used at

Most cards have a expiry date and I recently worked for a not that large company that was making 60,000 pounds a year from unused and expired cards !!!!

And how many unused gift cards became worthless when woolworths collapsed in uk ?

So if can't give them a gift give them a cheque

Guest's picture

I think gift cards are wonderful. I can score sales after Christmas and get more for my money. I usually run out and spend them right away so I don't chance losing it. I like to give them as well. I try to find unique ways to present them.