Five Things You Should Know about Gift Cards

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Gift cards: Free money. That is all you think you need to know about gift cards until you really know all about gift cards. Perhaps you occasionally wonder if giving a gift card during the holidays or on a birthday seems a bit impersonal (please feel free to give me all the gift cards, I do not think it’s impersonal; I think that it means you want me to have what I really want instead of the less appealing stuff you might otherwise assume I want – and for that, I thank you) or you wonder if it makes you seem lazy.

Well, yes; kind of. Nothing says, “Hey! Happy birthday or Merry Christmas! I forgot your birthday until Facebook reminded me this morning/I remembered that I forgot to get you a Christmas gift this year,” like a gift card. Who cares? Gift cards are free money, and they are awesome. There will always be those people that are offended by gift cards (he didn’t care enough to remember me or put any thought into my gift), and those are probably the same people offended by the fact that the barista at Starbucks handed them a plain red cup with an overpriced latte and said, “Merry Christmas,” instead of a red cup with reindeer – who needs those people?

The fact of the matter is that gift cards are big business. They put you in control of your own gift receiving destiny, and they are always a safe bet (A Nordstrom gift card to the love of your life for that dress she really wants or guess her size incorrectly by going too big and presenting it to her yourself so that she can immediately begin to cry and assume you think she’s fat?); but you don’t know everything about gift cards. In fact, there are a few interesting tidbits of information you might find interesting and useful that pertain to gift cards, and we have those here for you.

Bye Bye Theft

The one issue with gift cards in the past is that they’re so easy to steal and lose. If you lost or had yours stolen, that was it; end of story. No more gift card for you. However, that’s all changing now. Today, many gift cards have a feature on them that allows you to call the number listed on the back of the card and register it as a bank-branded card. This way, if it’s lost or stolen, you can call and let the registration department know and they will issue you a new card and put a stop on the card that you lost. That’s pretty awesome, and it makes your gift card a little less like cash and a little more like a credit card with all its safety features.

Gift Cards are Often More Valuable Online

Here is a piece of gift card information that’s about to rock your world. Let’s do some simple math here; kidding, I’ll just use an example. If you are given a $50 gift card to Old Navy, you can use it online and we highly recommend that you do. Here is why; you can make your card worth more online than you can in the store. Old Navy, for example, uses a free shipping offer with all purchases that are $50 or more. Let’s say your order comes out to $45. You’re going to say, “Well, I can add something else to my cart to spend $5 and get free shipping. Otherwise my order is still going to be close to $55,” and then you add a $5 item to your cart. Then you realize that all orders are on sale for 20% off the price at checkout This means your $50 order is actually only $40, so you add $13 worth of stuff to the cart because you have to get the total up to over $63 so that after the 20% discount it’s still over $50 so you can get that $7 shipping discount. You just spent $75 with all your additions so that your order came to right at $50. Now your gift card is pretty much worth $75 instead of $50 since you just got all that stuff free; do you follow?

Mobile Gift Cards are the Future

You can go into any store you want – almost – and purchase a gift card. Or you can buy it online and have an e-gift card that’s far more convenient. For one, you’re not accidentally going to throw it away with the rest of the holiday trash since it’s in your inbox and can be used anywhere and accessed from any internet-capable device. Mobile technology has changed so much of the world already, so why not let it change your gift card experience? It only makes sense. If you have a physical gift card, you might be able to take a photo of the card and store it on your phone; but it all depends on the retailer offering the card and their mobile tech capabilities.

 Stores Rely on Shoppers to Use Gift Cards

Many people make the mistake of assuming that stores hope that you will forget that gift card in your wallet so that they can take the cash for the card and never have to give you their product. It’s 100% profit for them. However, retailers state that this is anything but true. When you come into their location with a gift card, you consider it free money. When you have a $100 gift card to use at, let’s say Neiman Marcus, you’re more likely to go in and spend a lot more than $100. For example, I recently had a Neiman Marcus gift card for my birthday and I went into the store and used it, spent three times what it was worth and left with the mindset that I just bought a killer pair of shoes for a HUGE discount thanks to the fact that they were on sale, and I *technically* got an additional $100 off of them since I had a gift card to use. Win-win for me and the store.

Brand Name Gift Cards have Fees

Sometimes you learn things the hard way, and it’s not all that much fun. One year, my husband and I purchased some very valuable American Express gift cards for some of the people on our Christmas gift list. We thought that they would very much appreciate having this sum of money to go out and get what they wanted versus what we thought they might want, which was most definitely not what they actually wanted.

What we did not know at the time (and this was many years ago so amounts and fees might have changed since then) is that AmEx charges the recipient of the card $4.95 to activate the gift card. So if we bought a $100 gift card, the recipient only received $95.05 to spend. We didn’t know; it was an honest mistake. Had we known, we probably would have added the additional fee onto each card so that the recipients would have had their full $100 to spend. We did not know until we received very angry phone calls from said recipients about this fee. I won’t go into how annoying and rude we found that to be, but still; they do charge a fee, so be careful. Most store cards, however, do not charge a fee for a gift card.

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