Stop Gifting Gift Cards

Nothing says “I have no idea what you want so I got you this” more than a gift card. It’s the ultimate way of saying you truly don’t understand someone, nor do you care to try.

And yet, gift cards remain the number one gift every holiday season.

Perhaps this is because of the ease of purchase or the ease of gifting. But I think we can all agree that there are better choices than a gift card for the people who mean the most to you in your life.

The problem with gift cards

On the one hand, gift cards are an easy gift. They can be bought last minute and sent across the country to your nephew in California where he has the freedom to buy with it whatever he wants. This assumes you bought him a gift card to a store he wants to visit (more on that in a sec).

On the other hand, they may come off as cold and distant.

You could have just listened to your nephew when he talked about how much he loved basketball and you could have sent him his favorite player’s jersey, which he would treasure for the rest of his life.

Instead, you bought him a Best Buy gift card. 

A little lackluster, don’t you think?

Let’s highlight a few of the major problems with purchasing a piece of plastic for every celebratory occasion.

Not personal

Giving a gift card is like saying “I give up” I have no idea what you want, so here.. Granted, there are times when a more impersonal gift is okay. Perhaps you were invited to a cousin’s boyfriend’s birthday party and you have no idea what to get him. Or a company gift for a job well done. Either way gift cards make sense.

However, a gift card for your cousin’s birthday? I think you know that’s not a great choice. Save yourself the personal shame and ask her what she really wants this year instead of getting her a Starbucks gift card (hoping she drinks coffee).

Oops, wrong store

How many times have you gotten a gift card to a place you don’t usually visit, only to be forced to buy something you don’t really need? Probably at least once or twice. I’ve bought wool socks from a department store just to use up an unwanted gift card.

Giving a gift card that the receiver doesn’t like is a real risk. Sure there are places to sell or trade gift cards, but these can be risky. You’re never quite sure things are on the up and up. Plus, often you have to sell gift cards at a lower price to make it worth it to the buyer.

You spend $50 on a gift card for your friend and she sells it for $40 cash. I’m no expert, but I would say that that’s not the best way to use $50.

Cash is a little better, still impersonal, but better. Of course with cash someone might take the “gift” and spend it on groceries, and that’s not much of a gift is it?

Nothing there for $20

One year for Christmas, I got a $20 gift card to a store that had nothing under $20. The cheapest thing I could find was a water bottle for $30. I did not need another water bottle. But I spent $10 on the bottle anyways just to use up the gift card.

I would rather have been given a $15 water bottle to start with.

Gift cards are like DIY gift shopping for the receiver where they have to spend some of their own money to get what they actually want.

Yeah, I don’t really get it either.

Whoops, where did that $100 go?

If I hid a 3 ½ by 2-inch piece of paper somewhere in your house, could you find it? I certainly couldn’t. Gift cards are exactly that size and that’s why $970 billion in gift cards goes unused every single year.

As much as you would like to have faith in yourself that you won’t lose your gift card, it’s likely you will at some point.

Of course, you can minimize the risk uploading your gift cards to your Moola wallet where your cards  will be kept safe and securely backed up to the cloud.

You can also help your friends not lose their gift cards by opting to not buy them gift cards—or buy them through Moola for them

I forgot to use my gift card…again

You got a gift card to your favorite store and you’re super excited about it.

For about a day or two.

You put it in your wallet and it gets lost behind your Costco membership and your library card and your credit card. Even when you visit that store, you forget to use it and the card sits sadly in your wallet until you inevitably lose it.

Such is the sad, sad life of the forgotten gift card.

Nobody needs more plastic

Many of us are trying to accumulate less plastic in our life, not more. Giving someone a single-use piece of plastic this day in age might as well be the same as littering; it’s just not cool.

Gift cards are nearly impossible to recycle, so most end up somewhere in a landfill where it’ll take millions of years to decompose. Was that $20 gift card really worth a lifetime of environmental destruction? The CBC has something to say on this topic, and the environmental downsides of plastic gift cards are staggering.

Do the earth a favor and choose a more environmentally friendly gift for your loved ones this year. You can rest easy knowing that both them and the planet will be happier because of it.

Paying to use your card

So you’ve gotten this far and you’re thinking, hey my brother-in-law loved it when I sent him a digital VISA gift card. It was personalized with a photo of his family, it’s good anywhere, so he’s sure to love it. It’s even on his computer so he’ll never lose it, and it’s not bad for the environment.

It’s the perfect gift card option.

Or is it?

Prepaid, open-loop gift cards like VISA, MasterCard, and American Express may seem like a good idea, but the thing is, these cards often come with hidden fees that, get this, the recipient has to pay. It’s common for these cards to have “inactive” fees that take a chunk of the value of the card if the card isn’t used right away.

These fees are deducted from the value of the card so that over time that $30 becomes $25 and that $5 disappears into someone else’s pocket.

Open-loop gift cards are kind of like cash but with more problems and less freedom.

Nobody wants more problems and less freedom.

Beware of scammers

You may have come across a few gift card scams in the news recently, and each one is even more frightening than the next. Like scammers replacing barcodes on cards in the store so you’re not buying a card to a clothing store for your mom, you’re buying a gift card to an electronics store that thieves will clone or use online.

There’s a lot of ways that people use gift cards to commit fraud – they’re hard to trace and easy to use online once they’ve been activated. Companies do take measures to prevent fraud,  however, it’s virtually impossible to completely stop the scams from happening due to the nature of the cards themselves.

Buying a gift card through a digital platform like Moola ensures that your own gift cards aren’t riddled with fraud. Moola isn’t susceptible to switching fraud or other scams, you’re buying the card directly, securely, and electronically.

And you know what else isn’t riddled with fraud? A new handbag that you bought for your mom online and had shipped to her house for Christmas instead of sending her a gift card.

gift card envelope

On the other hand, when are gift cards okay?

Now, we do believe there are a few instances where giving a loved one a gift card is okay.

If you’re in a situation where your options are give a gift card or don’t give a gift at all, choose the gift card. Just…trust us on this one.

Sometimes, the people in your life are really in to a specific hobby and you would love to support them in said hobby. Perhaps your dad is a amateur chef and you know he wants some new knives for Christmas. However, you know that that’s something he’ll want to pick out himself.

Giving him a gift card to Gourmet Warehouse says “I know you want new knives, but it’s such a personal decision that I decided to get you this gift card to put towards them instead.” In this case, a gift card is appropriate. Just make sure it’s to a store that, you know, actually has knives.

Gift cards are great for people who won’t spend money on themselves. You want them to get something from their favorite store, but if you give them cash they won’t use it. At least with a gift card they’ll get something they’ll like.

So if you’re not supposed to give gift cards then, what are you supposed to do with them?

Buy gift cards for yourself and save some serious money.

Buying money saving gift cards is perhaps the easiest way to save money without giving up the things you really love. It’s quite possibly the future of budgeting and we’re here for it.

If you’re convinced you need to start buying yourself gift cards immediately, then you’re in luck. Moola makes saving money easy by allowing you to buy gift cards right on your phone. It’s the ultimate way to self-purchase gift cards at a great price.

So what are you waiting for, have you downloaded Moola yet?