Gift Cards Lack Spirit

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Can someone proclaim the demise of the gift card?


In recent times, even without a list, I didn’t cop out and go the gift card route, even though tempted by convenience. But if a gift means more than the giving—if a gift signifies that someone thought of you and spent time on you, whether through buying or crafting something—then don’t gift cards negate the purpose of presents?

And on the giver’s side, I’ve found it a lot more fun to shop for gifts, brainstorm on what people might like, hunt for the perfect things, and wrap them knowing that the recipients wouldn’t have any idea what to expect.

In comparison, gift cards seriously lack spirit.

Yet gift cards disappoint for reasons beyond the giver’s intentions:

On-line Shopping

If I must shop, typically, I shop on-line. (Before the magic of the Internet, I shopped via catalog, so I’ve made distance shopping a life-long practice.) Shopping on-line makes it a challenge to use gift cards to stores and cash-infused debit cards from Visa and American Express (see more on the latter below).

When I do shop in person, I tend to do so spontaneously—which makes it nearly certain that I don’t have my gift cards on hand.

Memory—and Time

Rarely do I remember which gift cards I have for what. And most of the time, I receive cards for stores I don’t frequent. (An easy thing to happen, given that I don’t frequent almost any stores.)

By the time I remember to make a special trip to find something on which to spend a gift card, I find that I don’t want anything currently on offer—or that fees have greatly diminished the value of the card.

Cash Card Restrictions

Visa and AmEx require complicated activation, have high fees, many on-line shopping options don’t recognize them and, when they do, most on-line shopping systems don’t allow you to split the cost of an order between two cards—a necessity to fully use the card.

Even worse: As a person who prefers services over products—I’ll take a massage or a pedicure over a new sweater any day—you cannot use cash cards for anything that may incur additional fees and tips. This restriction nixes massages, restaurants, hotels, and travel.

Disagree? Are you a gift card devotee?