Gift Cards

All About Gift Cards

What is the purpose of gift cards?

Gift cards are a great option for those who don’t know what to get the recipient of the gift. They are also an incredibly useful option for those who don’t have time to find or pick out the perfect gift for a gift recipient. Gift cards may be used for all different occasions including contest prizes, gestures of appreciation and thanks, birthday and anniversary gifts, and many other instances.

Where can a person obtain a gift card?

In today’s world, gift cards are offered at any store – particularly those stores that are national chains, such as Old Navy, Best Buy and Target. Some gift cards may only be used at the store of purchase: others may be used at any of the participating stores (meaning that if the store belongs to a national chain of stores, the gift card may be used and/or redeemed at any of their stores throughout the country): still other gift cards may be redeemed at any store owned by the mother company – such as “the options” gift card – offered at Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. However, in recent years, credit card companies have been coming out with gift cards as well. Gift cards purchased from credit card companies such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express, function very similarly to credit cards. These gift cards may be used anywhere that accepts credit cards.

When were gift cards invented? 

Although it is only in recent history that actual gift cards encrypted with information and barcodes have been available, the concept of rewarding or offering people a money substitute that may only be redeemed at specific locations has been prevalent for centuries. For many years, this form of credit was referred to as scrip. Though scrip generally refers to a form of credit extended to a salaried employee to be redeemed at any of their company stores. Since the days when scrip was used as an incentive to maintain employee loyalty, scrip has transformed into a new concept: gift certificates and gift cards.

The main difference between gift certificates and gift cards is a simple one – gift cards are more easily traceable. This is because gift cards generally have a barcode and/or magnetic strip that can usually be processed on a typical credit card machine. This being the case, the information about gift cards can usually be obtained when the barcode, or information from the magnetic strip is entered into the computer system. In contrast, a gift certificate rarely has a barcode or any information with which one could follow the transaction for which it was used.

Things to beware of when purchasing gift cards or gift certificates

When purchasing a gift card or gift certificate, one must always keep the recipient of the gift in mind. If the recipient is not a close acquaintance, you may want to consider a broader-spectrum card, such as a Visa Gift Card, because then they may use their own taste to purchase something for themselves that they either need or want. If the recipient is close enough to the giver that the giver knows where the recipient likes to shop most, then a gift card from that store is usually a safe choice.

There are a few more things to keep in mind when purchasing a gift card or gift certificate: expiration dates and maintenance fees. Both expiration dates and maintenance fees are insurance for the company. A maintenance fee is paid by the giver, after a certain amount of time has passed and the gift card still has not been redeemed for products, while expiration dates avoid maintenance fees by providing the recipient a set period of time when the gift card may be used.

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