The winter holidays are coming in hot, and it’s time to make my annual argument: Gift cards can be great presents. The trick is matching them to the person you’re buying for.
From a practical standpoint, getting someone a gift card saves you from the anguish of trying to decide what to buy for them and then getting it wrong — which leads to holiday awkwardness, and no one wants that.
Plus, do you really want to give the gift of having to make a return? Per data reported by Red Stag Fulfillment, a third of those surveyed in 2021 anticipated needing to return at least one present they received that holiday season. Returning a gift takes time, and if your recipient is self-employed, taking the time out of their schedule to make that return could quite literally represent a hit to their checking account. Plus, if the item was purchased online, there could be more hoops to jump through to make that return (and it might even cost extra to return).
If you think gift cards are the lazy way out — well, you may have a point, because gift cards are easier on you as the gift giver. But here are a few other reasons they’re worth considering.
Gift cards are flexible
You have basically endless options for gift cards, beginning with the types you can purchase. There are online gift cards (good for the planet, easy to deliver — put in your recipient’s email address and you’re all good). There are physical gift cards, which can be purchased nearly anywhere (Costco is a great place to buy little-known gift cards, actually) and used either in person or online.
You can buy closed-loop gift cards, which are only good at one retailer — if you give a Starbucks gift card, the recipient can’t use that at their local independent coffee shop. But you can also buy open-loop gift cards; these are commonly offered by Visa or Mastercard. And since they have that credit card logo on them, open-loop gift cards are accepted basically anywhere a debit or credit card is, online or in person. How convenient!
Gift cards are good for adults
Kids are one group of people for whom gift cards are less ideal; after all, kids are generally excited to receive actual presents for the holidays. But a lot of adults already have enough “stuff” in our lives and our homes, and we aren’t necessarily thrilled to receive something new we’ll have to store.
Plus, adults have developed a solid sense of taste, and what are the odds they’ll love the sweater you’ve picked out for them? If you’ve got adults to buy for, it’s worth opting for gift cards, unless you are extremely confident in your ability to choose a present they’re sure to love.
Tips to buy the most useful gift cards
I hope I’ve swayed you on gift cards, and if I have, here’s how you can choose the best options for your various loved ones.
- Consider location: Your recipient’s location, that is — if you’re planning to buy a card for a chain retail store, check whether that store exists in their area.
- Think about interests: If you know the person is a musician, perhaps a Guitar Center gift card is a good choice. If they’re already a Costco superfan or are considering joining the warehouse club, a Costco Shop Card might be perfect (you don’t have to be a member to use one!).
- When all else fails, go broad: Opt for an open-loop Visa or Mastercard gift card; remember, they can be used anywhere. Or get a card for a big retailer like Amazon or Target. The nice thing about the latter is you can shop on Target’s website as well as in store.
Gift cards can help you cross people off your holiday gift-buying list with a lot more ease, and they’re a great way to show you care. What’s not to like?
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