October 25th, 2014

The Dos and Don’ts of Gift Card Etiquette

by Jacqueline Whitmore

The holidays are just a few weeks away. Gift giving is a wonderful tradition during the holiday season, but it can also be stressful. However, a little preparation will help you cut back on stress as the holidays approach. Though it may seem early, set aside time now and decide whom you want to give holiday gifts to this year. If you can’t think of the perfect gift for someone, consider a gift card to his or her favorite store, restaurant or brand.

Gift cards are thoughtful and flexible because they allow the recipient the freedom to choose his or her own gift. In addition, your friends and family members will be able to use your gift card to take advantage of promotions after the holidays. Here are some dos and don’ts of gift card etiquette.

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012/Flickr

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012/Flickr

Purchase a gift card from a store. Bank gift cards are acceptable, and certainly better than nothing, but it’s not as personal or thoughtful as a store gift card. While they offer more flexibility — you can use them nearly anywhere — bank gift cards are generic and bland. Instead, take a little extra time to find out at which stores your recipient prefers to shop. He or she will appreciate the personalization and recognize that you put a little extra effort into the gift.

Account for the recipient’s preferences. When you decide to purchase a gift card, consider the likes and interests of the recipient. If the gift card is for a close friend or family member, try to stay away from cards from big box brands and instead choose a store that means something to your recipient. A gift card to a local coffee shop is perfect for the coffee lover in your life while a gift card to a spa may be the best choice for a friend who would love to take a day off and be pampered.

Decide on a dollar amount. How much you give is a personal decision and should be based on your financial situation. However, there are some basic guidelines to help you make your decision. Gift cards for acquaintances, co-workers or casual friends should be in the $10–$20 range. If your recipient is a close friend, sibling or other family member, select a gift card with a value of $30–$75. For spouses and anyone you want to recognize in a big way, opt for a gift card worth $75 or higher.

Include the receipt. Though it would be unusual for a recipient to have an issue when he or she tries to redeem the gift card, there’s always an off chance it was improperly activated or the card’s magnetic strip was damaged. The receipt will help to solve any problem the recipient may encounter. In addition, the receipt clearly states the amount on the gift card, which is especially important if the card doesn’t have a space designated for you to write the amount.

Include a note. Personalize the gift card with a handwritten note. If it’s for an experience, such as dinner at a restaurant, you could say something like, “Please enjoy a meal on me at your favorite steakhouse.” Even if the recipient lives far away, opt for a mailed gift card. Though many brands offer online gift cards delivered through email, a physical gift will show the recipient you put more thought into it.

Re-gift wisely. It’s okay to re-gift a gift card you don’t want or will never use. However, be careful not to seem unappreciative to the person who originally gave you the gift card. Remember to re-gift the card to someone outside the group of friends, family members or acquaintances in which you received it. For example, if your brother gives you a gift card to a particular store, don’t re-gift it to your mother. Instead, pass it along to a friend or co-worker.

Are you a fan of gift cards? If so, what kind of gift cards do you enjoy giving or receiving?

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4 Responses to “The Dos and Don’ts of Gift Card Etiquette”

  1. Evelyn on July 22nd, 2017 8:39 am

    I am Planning to give a Birthday gift card to an 80-year old sis-in-aw that is confined to a Wheelchair. Is it appropriate/good etiquette to make the amount to cover only the cost of her meal and not include escort?

  2. Jacqueline Whitmore on July 22nd, 2017 4:01 pm

    If your sister-in-law cannot get to the restaurant without her companion, it is good etiquette to include the companion’s meal also.

  3. Sue on January 8th, 2018 10:50 am

    I received a gift card and was told it had 60.00 on it. When I went to use it, it only had 25.00. Do I let the gift giver know about the discrepancy?

    Thanks for your help!!

  4. Jacqueline Whitmore on January 8th, 2018 9:26 pm

    Yes, I think it’s fair to let the giver know that the gift card contained only $25.00.

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