8 minutes reading time
NOV 15 2022

Are Gift Cards a Good Gift? Settling the Debate Forever

Cash or gift card? Which is a better gift? The debate is heating up! People are picking sides, families are torn apart and husbands are sleeping on the couch over the topic. Especially whenever the holiday season approaches. A recent Mashable article stated that Gift Cards Suck, Just Give Cash, while Cosmopolitan reported In Defense of Gift Cards – further fueling the debate.

For over a decade now the world – and the internet – has been discussing which side will win. However, eGift cards saw a lot of success these past two years with the pandemic boosting their appeal due to their convenience and ease of access. Dundle is here to settle the score once and for all, and explain why eGift cards are the best and easiest present ever for both the gift-giver and the receiver.

Are gift cards thoughtful gifts?

Even the gift card e-shop copywriter that writes these lines understands the naysayers. I’d be mad as well if my partner gave me a gift card for my birthday or even for Christmas. It seems impersonal and not as if he gave it much thought – perhaps he has simply pulled a last-minute gift. But hey, if I played Fortnite and were hooked on the famous “battle royale,” I’d want a Balenciaga skin as the fashion lover that I am but would not dare to buy it myself. And then yes, I would be grateful for a v-buck card to get something as impractical as virtual luxury clothing without feeling guilty. After all, online gaming is fuuuuuuun!

It may sound like a silly example, but it points to the solution to the controversy. “Are gift cards good or bad presents?” Well, it depends on who you are asking! They can be a fantastic idea or a waste – as can any other present be – because each prepaid card is different, as different as each of the people to whom we give presents. So whether or not a gift card or gift certificate will be seen as an appropriate gift really comes down to the person receiving it.

Gift cards have the potential to become the perfect gift for the right target audience and if you pin down the best purpose they can serve. Doubt it? Let’s challenge the clichés that are floating in cyberspace to find a thoughtful and more nuanced truth.

Female hands typing on a computer while holding a Visa card

“Gift cards are lazy and impersonal”

Are gift cards impersonal? Yes, they can be and that is a strength! A generic coupon like Vanilla, Visa, Mastercard, or Amex is a good idea for people whose tastes you don't know much about. But not only! Think of that teenage family member of yours. What teenager wants an adult to choose an actual gift for them? You could offer them cash, yes, but a gift card allows them to spend in a thoughtful way, and it teaches them about controlled spending. Moreover, if there are safety concerns, a parent can track what their teen is spending the gift card on based on their internet history.

But eGifts can also be very very personal and tailored to a person’s taste. Think about a DoorDash or Nintendo Card when you know the recipient is a regular user of those services. Prepaid credits attached to a specific store or brand may reveal just how well you know someone. They say the gift-giver knows what that person exactly likes and wants to treat them to that specific experience or item. Only if you buy gift cards, you can give Netflix as a gift to older people who you know are afraid to link their bank accounts. You can offer Spotify to a music lover friend, or a stash of Robux to that young cousin who is hooked on Roblox.

No, thoughtful gift cards are not impersonal. What might be impersonal is just your choice without any consideration for the recipient’s favorite store or hobbies. So think well, read carefully the features and possibilities of every coupon, and consider customizing it or adding meaningful wishes to it. Few things are more personal than the right words to say.

“Gift cards are just less useful money”

These words are taken verbatim from Amanda Yeo's article for Mashable, but they also circulate in a different form in online forums. You can’t pay the rent with gift cards, or the electricity bill, that is true. But aren’t they a great way to build your relationship with a person? A gift is not a monetary value, but a symbol, a message, and a way to strengthen ties with our loved ones. The act of giving is very different from merely paying and it brings us many emotional and social benefits.

In addition, buying certain services is much more practical than offering money. Because how do you give Minecoins to your little brother who is crazy about Minecraft but doesn’t have a debit card? How do you give apps for Christmas? Why buy a video game for a PC gamer when you can give him or her a Steam Card? If you are not a gamer yourself who is used to playing with the person, you have little chance of correctly choosing the title or DLC they want – in which case the game you select might be an impersonal and unwanted gift.

Two young girls have fun and smile while looking at a smartphone togethe

“Gift cards encourage spending”

“On average, consumers spend 40% more than the value of a gift card”, said a spokesperson of Blackhawk Network to Bloomberg.com. Let us explain how that might happen. Imagine you've been gifted an Amazon Gift Card, and when you redeem the code, the value of the card is converted to credit in your Amazon account, allowing you to treat yourself now or later. But what happens if that treatment costs more? You can still go for it, but then you have to pay for the remaining amount out of your own money. An impossible question arises then: Would you not spend that money anyway? There is no way to know the answer.

Many gift cards work similarly, but others must be spent in an exact amount. That's why it's so important to understand the terms and conditions, including the expiration date after activation before you choose. A trusted retailer should provide all of this information, as well as offer a help center and personalized customer service to the shopper.

Moreover, the opposite is often true. There are gift cards such as Netflix, Spotify, or PlayStation Plus that help the giftee save money. Why? Because they allow subscribing to a service without associating a credit card. When the prepaid credit runs out, the subscription ends, and that’s it! So those annoying automatic renewals simply can't happen. That explains why many people buy them for their own use as a secure form of payment and to manage their personal finances, especially if they worry about overspending.

“Receiving gift cards is a chore”

Imagine getting an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Mauritius in a 5-star hotel. It would give you a job. You would have to ask for days off work and organize your schedule. You would have to buy sunscreen, some new bikinis, maybe get some vaccinations and pack your suitcase. Then, you would have to commute to the airport, maybe jet-lagged, both on the way there and on the way back, and then unpack!

Can we conclude that an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Mauritius is a bad gift because it's a job? Well, for some people it is certainly an unsuitable gift. But many of us would kill for it. The same goes for gift cards, just on a less spectacular scale. The only work they give is choosing what to spend it on and keeping an eye on the balance. Is that really a drag?

A young girl smiles as she holds two cards in one hand and three full shopping bags in the other

Regardless of one's position, it is a fact that the prepaid card industry is growing exponentially. It has been doing so since 2015 and the pace has accelerated with the pandemic. As reported by Bloomberg.com, Global Industry Analysts estimates that industry profits will have doubled by 2027 compared to 2021. Also, 75% of American millennials prefer a gift card as a gift, according to a survey by Blackhawk Network. So if we let numbers do the talking, the debate is settled once and for all; buying gift cards, vouchers, and the like is a great gift idea!

Giving gifts can be a difficult task and you always run the risk of getting it wrong. At least with gift cards, you offer some space for the receiver to make a choice on what they want to buy, without the seemingly lazy act of offering them money without any thought or effort behind the gesture.

If you want to learn more then read how to use eGift cards, as well as the history of gift-giving and why gift-giving is better than receiving. Dundle is your one-stop shop for all the digital goods you need, from birthday gifts for yourself and your gamer friends, to father’s day and mother’s day gifts, holiday gift cards, as well as affordable presents for men, women, and children. We’ll help you find the best gift for any recipient no matter the occasion.

Paloma Sevilla