Gift Cards: Appreciated Present or Inconvenience?

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Did you give or receive a gift card this holiday season? If you did, you’re certainly not alone. According to an estimate by the National Retail Federation, $24.8 billion worth of them would be sold this holiday season.

Advantages of Giving Gift Cards

Gift cards are a convenient way to ensure that you give something the recipient wants, is the right size, color, model or style. By giving a gift card, you’re empowering the recipient to buy precisely what they want. There’s no unwanted gift to return or exchange, should the gift prove unsatisfactory. They are easy to purchase and can be enclosed in a greeting card, for instance, eliminating the expense of wrapping or mailing a package. Additionally, gift cards can be purchased online and emailed directly to the recipient, making gift buying and delivery nearly instantaneous.

Disadvantages of Giving Gift Cards

Oftentimes, the giver would prefer the actual price of a gift remain unknown. With the value printed on the gift card, that secret is impossible to maintain. As for recipients, some consider a gift card a “lazy” gift, believing that the giver failed to put an appropriate degree of thought into the present. In other cases, recipients consider a gift card limiting because it requires them to shop at a particular retailer and would rather receive cash to spend where they wish.

Redeeming Gift Cards

The fact is, 25% of gift cards are never redeemed. Why would that be the case? Isn’t a gift card as good as cash? One reason that gift cards aren’t redeemed is because they simply get lost or forgotten in a wallet or drawer.

If you are patient enough to hold on to a gift card until you have occasion to use it, remember that while it cannot expire for five years, inactivity fees can begin as soon as 12 months after purchase.

The most frequent reason, however, for failing to use a gift card is because the recipient is not interested in shopping at the retailer from which the gift card was purchased. What can an unsatisfied gift card recipient do?

3 things you can do with unwanted gift cards:

  1. Use at an affiliated retailer: Often a gift card is not only redeemable at the store from which it was purchased but at that store’s affiliates which are under the same parent company. These other retailers are often listed on the gift card itself. Check to see if one of them may be a more desirable place to spend your gift card.
  2. Regift: Perhaps you have a friend or family member who you know would appreciate the gift card more than yourself. Gift cards make great regifts with one caveat: before regifting, check the value of the card to make sure that no inactivity fees have been deducted from it’s original value. It would be embarrassing for you to give a gift card worth less than it’s stated value and inconvenient for the recipient upon redemption. You can call or check online to discover the value of a gift card.
  3. Exchange: There are websites where unwanted gift cards can be sold and swapped, in exchange for a portion of the value of the card. Companies that exchange your unwanted gift cards include,, and and will exchange your unwanted gift cards for more desirable ones, send you cash, place the value in your PayPal account or even donate the value to charity.

Gift cards give the gift of shopping to their recipients. With a little knowledge about them, they can be the perfect gift for nearly everyone.

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