SIX Steps to Better Gift Card Giving

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Ever find yourself in a quandry at the kiosk, puzzling over which gift card to give, how much money to spend, and how best to present the gift? Follow these five SIX! steps to end your worries and turn any gift card into a thoughtful gift:

  1. It’s Not About You. Don’t use a gift card to send a message. Pick a gift card the recipient would want, not one you think he or she should have. For example, if your husband likes to buy clothes at Bass Pro Shops, don’t buy him a gift card to Nordstrom in an effort to get him out of the khakis and into the classics. His feelings might get hurt and the gift card won’t get used. Let HIS passions and interests be your guide.
  2. NEW! Special Delivery. Companies are offering increasing ways to deliver gift cards electronically–e-mail, text message, Facebook, and so forth. While these options are convenient delivery methods for the giver, the recipient may think otherwise. If the recipient is on Facebook once a week, then a Facebook delivered gift card is fine. If he rarely checks in on Facebook but is always dialed in on his smart phone, then an e-gift card would be a better choice. If the recipient hasn’t quite stepped into cyberspace, stick with plastic.
  3. Location. Location. Location. Make sure the gift card can be redeemed at a location convenient for the recipient. If you’re not sure, check locations on the store’s website or call the 1-800 number (typically listed on the back of the gift card) before purchasing. Good compromises include picking a gift card that can be used both in stores and online, getting an online only gift card (e.g. iTunes, eBay, Fandango, etc.), or choosing a bank issued gift card (e.g. Personalized Visa Gift Card) that can be used almost anywhere.
  4. Buying Power. Choose a dollar amount that allows the recipient to redeem the gift card without spending additional money. Otherwise, it’s not a gift–it’s a coupon. That doesn’t mean you have to overspend your budget, however. Just pick a gift card accordingly. If you have $20 to spend, for example, a gift card to the ice cream shop or deli would be more appropriate than a gift card to a nice restaurant or high-end clothing store.
  5. Avoid the Gotchas. As of August 22, 2010, by law, companies are required to clearly identify gift card fees, restrictions, and expiration dates. If you adhere to the steps above in choosing a gift card, the recipient will hopefully use the card before any of these non-use terms apply. But just to be sure, flip the card over and read the fine print. If you can’t find or don’t understand the terms, pick a different gift card.
  6. Now and Later. Gift card deliveries sometimes feel awkward because there’s nothing to open, try on, or pass around the party. Your gift card will elicit a better reaction, however, if you put it with a little something extra. On this site are hundreds of suggestions. Just remember, the pairing can be as simple as a homemade bookmark with a bookstore gift card, a snugly pair of socks with a gift card to the bath shop, or a collection of favorite recipes with a cooking store gift card. Adding this finishing touch not only gives the recipient something to enjoy in the moment, but shows an extra measure of thought went into the gift.

Though I buy gift cards frequently, I always go through this checklist before picking one out. The last thing I want is for the recipient to get a gift card from me that is unusable or considered impersonal. I want us both to feel good about the exchange and following these rules is a tremendous help.

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