Are Gift Cards the Perfect Christmas Presents?

One of my favorite gifts to give and receive is the gift the card. It allows the recipient to get what he or she wants, while at the same time conveying that you’ve thought things through a little bit when it comes to choosing the present.

Giving gift cards can also help you keep your Christmas gifts relatively inexpensive — while still being respectable. Here are some of the reasons I like gift cards:

Show your thoughtfulness: A generic gift card from Visa doesn’t really show your thoughtfulness. However, a gift card from a place you know the recipient will like does show thoughtfulness. A gift card to a favorite store, or the restaurant he or she has been dying to try out shows thoughtfulness while still allowing the recipient flexibility in spending.

Save money with discount gift cards: Not only can you should your thoughtfulness, but you can also find discount gift cards. Many web sites offer you the chance to get gift cards for less than their face value, allowing you to stretch your gift-giving dollar (or allow you to save money on every purchase if you plan well). Some websites offer hundreds of gift cards at substantial discounts, sometimes as much as 10-30% off face value.

Easy to send to distant loved ones: Another reason I love gift cards is the ease with which you can send them. You can drop them in an envelope, and pay regular postage. Give a gift card online, and there is no shipping at all; you don’t have to worry about it going astray or arriving late. You can send your love to distant loved ones quickly and conveniently.

Giving gift cards can be a way to improve your holiday shopping experience, and complete your transactions with ease, while also not having to worry about whether or not the recipient is receiving a duplicate gift.

Are Gift Cards Always the Best Presents?

Gift cards do have their down sides, though. For one thing, there might be terms and conditions that cause problems. For the most part, the rules in the Credit CARD Act prevents a lot of former abuses, but there are still some things to watch out for. Read the fine print when you purchase a gift card to understand the terms and conditions.

Also, realize that some gift cards come with fees for activation. When you purchase an American Express gift card, or a Visa gift card, you usually have to pay a fee up front. The recipient doesn’t pay a fee, but you do. If you buy 10 gift cards, your $3.95 activation fee for each adds up to $39.50! That’s extra spending on holiday gifts. Instead, look for gift cards that don’t come with activations fees.

Understand, too, that some people don’t like receiving gift cards. Even if you go through the effort of trying to provide a unique experience with a gift card, some recipients still feel as though gift cards are a bit impersonal. Be aware of recipient preferences as you complete your Christmas shopping.

What do you think? Are gift cards good Christmas presents?

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Date published: December 7, 2011. Last updated: November 8, 2013.

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Miranda is a journalistically trained freelance writer and professional blogger working from home. She is a contributor for, Personal Dividends and several other sites.


  1. says

    I’m a big fan of card pool and plastic jungle. But I’m not sure that gift cards are the “best” present. I default to them if I can’t think of something for a particular person, but know generally what they like. It’s good for cost control, too, especially if you get discounted cards.

  2. says

    I like receiving gift cards over cash as I know that if I get cash I won’t buy anything fun, I will just use it for practical stuff. However, if I get a gift card, I have the freedom to actually buy what I want without it costing me anything. I like that feeling!

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