Pros and Cons of Giving Gift Cards

Is a gift card the ultimate gift -- or is it a headache?

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If you're considering giving gift cards, then you need to be up to speed on the pros and cons of gift giving, as well as the laws that govern them. 

Gift Cards Get a Bad Rap

Overall, gift cards seem to be more popular among gift givers than receivers. Many consider gift cards to be impersonal gifts that give the impression that the gift giver is lazy.

There are also reservations about giving gift cards that might accumulate fees, decrease in value, or expire too soon. Fortunately, back in 2010 new laws governing gift cards put most consumer concerns to rest. Fees on gift cards are prohibited for 12 months after purchase of the gift card and gift cards have a life expectancy of five years.

Why Some People Dislike Getting Gift Cards

A survey conducted by Consumer Reports determined that over 25 percent of all gift cards given are never used.

According to the survey:

  • 58 percent of those surveyed said they did not use their gift cards because they didn't have time to go the store or shop online.
  • 35 percent said they couldn't find anything to buy.
  • 32 percent said that they either lost the gift card or forgot that they had it.

But do those numbers show that giving a gift card is a bad idea? Not really. Not when you consider how many people receive gifts that they never wear, use, display, play or that they exchange for something else. 

To help sort it out, take a look at the pros and cons of gift card giving.

The Pros of Buying Gift Cards

  1. People can choose what they want to buy.
  2. The cost of sending gift cards is a lot less than the cost of mailing packages.
  3. The person receiving the gift card can get more bang for their buck by shopping with gift cards during peak sale times.

The Cons of Buying Gift Cards

  1. Gift cards are easy to lose.
  2. Gift cards appear to be impersonal.
  3. Retailers may go out of business before a card is used.

Online Options for Unwanted Gift Cards

Today, there is no reason for someone to get stuck with an unwanted gift card. That's because there are services that will buy unwanted gift cards for a portion of a card's value. and Cardcash are companies which provide services whereby you can sell, trade or buy discounted gift cards. The services determine the amount to be paid based on the popularity of the card that is being sold and both sites sell gift cards at a discount. This is a good option for people who often shop at the same store and want to maximize their savings.

Need Extra Cash?

Credit card companies reward customers with points based on how much they charge to their accounts. These points can then be used to purchase gift certificates to retail stores, restaurants, and also for local services.

Swagbucks, for example, offers customers the opportunity to earn points by watching short advertisements, completing surveys, or visiting websites. These points can then be used to buy gift certificates. The gift certificates can then be sold to Cardpool or Swapagift for almost the entire face value of the card.

Gift Cards Make Good Necessity Gifts

Giving gift cards to help pay for necessities soared following the recession in 2007. And no wonder. Gift cards for gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases are gifts that have value for anyone living on a tight budget.

The Bottom Line

Gift cards are like any other gift that you give. Before you choose one, you should think about the person you are giving the card to and consider their likes and dislikes. Try to select a card that will be appreciated, and used.