Are Gift Cards Bad Gifts? [Here’s What to Know!]

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you decide to purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you.

Gift cards are one of the most popular presents of our time, yet they divide opinion in a way few other things do. While some regard gift cards as a lifesaver that makes the arduous task of holiday shopping relatively easier, others view them as a cop-out. Are gift cards make for a good or bad gift?

Gift cards are bad gifts when chosen without considering the recipient’s preferences. However, when the giver takes time to select the right gift card and personalize it, it can be as good a present as any other.

This article will explain the pros and cons of gift cards as presents. I’ll also describe the right way to choose and give a gift card. Keep reading to know more!

What Makes Gift Cards Bad Gifts?

The traditional opinion is that gift cards make for bad gifts, and that’s not without reason. An actual present does have some advantages over a gift card. For example, the receiver is more likely to respond positively to a physical gift than a card. 

Also, 85 percent of the gift cards are plastic gift cards. They are harmful to the environment, and not everyone would appreciate receiving them. 

Here are a few more reasons that make people look down upon gift cards:

1. Gift Cards Lack a Personal Touch

Everyone knows shopping for a present takes time and effort. According to a survey, an average American spends 14 hours shopping for gifts during the holiday season. But that’s precisely why most people prefer to receive a real present. It shows that the giver has put time and thought into selecting a gift for the giftee.

However, that isn’t the case with gift cards. Almost always, people give gift cards as a present because they can’t decide what to get for the giftee or because they are too lazy to look for one. This outlook makes gift cards look like an impersonal and thoughtless choice and gives them a bad rap. 

2. Gift Cards May Require the Giftee To Spend Money

One of the common dilemmas receivers of gift cards face is how to satisfactorily utilize the value of a gift card. Often, the giftee finds themselves in one of the two situations: 

  • A few dollars are left on the card after the purchase.
  • They have to pay extra to use the entire value of the card.

According to this report by Mageplaza, 59 percent of people spend more than the value of the card they receive. When one has to pay some money from their pocket to use the gift card they received, it can be a bit difficult for the giftee to appreciate the generosity of the giver.  

3. Gift Cards Can Be Challenging To Use

Consider these statistics from a Consumer Reports survey for a moment:

  • About 59 percent of Americans faced some sort of problem with their cards.
  • About 16 percent of respondents couldn’t use their cards because of their location.
  • About 18 percent of participants had difficulty determining the remaining amount on their cards after using them.

It’s clear, at times, it can be a bit of an inconvenience to use gift cards. However, there is no such issue with an actual gift.

4. Gift Cards Can Be a Waste of Money 

Sometimes people keep a gift card in a wallet, a drawer, or a book and forget to use it. Eventually, the validity of the gift card expires, and the card becomes worthless. 

It’s a more common occurrence than one would think. According to this survey by Bankrate, 51 percent of American adults have unused credits —gift cards, store credits, or vouchers — that they haven’t used. 

When a gift card expires, the issuer makes a profit, and the state makes money too. Many states have come up with statutes that treat unused gift cards as abandoned property. Thanks to the changes in the law, the state gets to keep a cut. To check the laws in different states regarding this matter, click here.

The only person who loses in this scenario is the one who should have benefitted: the giftee. 

In Defense of Gift Cards

Gift cards suffer from poor public perception. Still, the usage of gift cards is on the rise. They have been the most popular items on wish lists since 2007, and there are good reasons behind that. 

Here are a few reasons that have contributed to the meteoric rise of gift cards: 

1. Gift Cards Save Time and Stress

As mentioned earlier, it takes an average American 14 hours to shop for gifts for the holiday season. It’s a lot of time and stress to go through, especially during the most stressful period of the year—the holidays.

It makes even less sense to put in this much effort when 75 percent of Americans admit that they probably won’t like the gift they receive during holidays. On the other hand, 59 percent of people wish to receive a gift card. 

Is it necessary to spend hours finding that elusive perfect gift when the gift card can do the job satisfactorily well?  

2. Gift Cards Can Be the Best Gifts in Some Situations

Sometimes you may know a person quite well and still struggle to find the right present for them. For example, you may be close to your nephew and know he is a sneakerhead. You may even be aware that he likes sneakers from a particular brand. But do you know the specific model he has his eyes on? 

Of course, you can get him a model you like. However, most likely, he’ll exchange or return it for something else. Why not save everyone some hassle and just give him a gift card for that store instead?

Gift cards are the best option when you have some ideas about a person’s hobbies and lifestyle but don’t know exactly what to get for them. 

The Right Way To Give a Gift Card

If you want to buy your friends and family a gift card this holiday season, don’t let the negative perception stop you. According to data — and contrary to popular myth — your loved ones might prefer gift cards more than actual gifts. 

However, don’t just jump online and buy the first gift card you come across. Read these etiquettes of giving a gift card first so that you can make your present stand out. 

Take Time To Find the Right Card

If you want your gift card to feel personal and thoughtful, avoid the temptation to give a general-purpose gift card, even though it’s convenient. 

Nowadays, when every online and offline store offers gift cards, giving a general-purpose gift card is inexcusable, especially to people close to you. Take some time to think about the giftee’s needs and wants, and decide on a gift card accordingly.  

For example, you can give Netflix gift cards to cinephiles in your life, Spotify gift cards to music lovers, and Nintendo or Steam gift cards to those hooked on games. 

Likewise, giving a Kindle gift card from Amazon to a bookworm is generally going to be well-appreciated and well-accepted as a gift!

Write a Sweet Accompanying Message

Even if you have found the perfect gift card, if you just put it in an envelope and hand it over to the giftee, it’ll reflect poorly on you. Always take time to write a sweet and meaningful message.  

If you are gifting a plastic card, you can even choose to have it wrapped in a fancy manner. 

Remember these tips when you give a gift card this holiday season, and your present will become a memorable one for your loved ones.

Similar Posts