Should you be gifting someone a gift card?

Would you be upset?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Mar 27, 2022

Thanks to the debacle that was 2020 and 2021, all major life events have been rescheduled to this year and next. My current guest list count includes: 7 weddings, 4 bachelorettes, 6 postponed 30th birthday parties, and bridal and baby showers thrown in the mix. None of them are in New York City, where I live.


All of them require large amount of money just to attend, and as much as I’d love to say my presence is enough of a gift, I still feel guilty for not bringing something for the bride, birthday girl, or mother-to-be. But, as it is so taxing on my bank account, I wondered if it’s tacky or insensitive to give someone you are really close to, a gift card?


Some things to consider

If you’re considering giving gift cards, then you need to be up to speed on the pros and cons of gift giving, as well as the etiquette laws that govern them. Overall, gift cards seem to be more popular among gift givers than receivers. Many consider gift cards to be impersonal gifts that give the impression that the gift giver is lazy. There are also reservations about giving gift cards that might accumulate fees, decrease in value, or expire too soon.


Fortunately, back in 2010, new laws governing gift cards put most consumer concerns to rest. Fees on gift cards are prohibited for 12 months after purchase of the gift card, and gift cards themselves have a life expectancy of 5 years.


There are some studies that claim 25% of all gift cards given are never used. According to the study, 58% of those surveyed said they did not use their gift cards because they didn’t have time to go the store or shop online. In addition, 35% said they couldn’t find anything to buy. And lastly, 32% said that they either lost the gift card or forgot that they had it.



But do those numbers show that giving a gift card is a bad idea? Not really. Not when you consider how many people receive gifts that they never wear, use, display, play, or are exchanged for something else. But the pros of choosing a gift card tend to outweigh the cons.


People can choose what they want to buy, the cost of sending gift cards is a lot less than the cost of mailing packages, and the person receiving the gift card can get more bang for their buck by shopping with gift cards during peak sale times.



Gift cards are easy to lose, appear impersonal, or retailers might go out of business. Today, there is no reason for someone to get stuck with an unwanted gift card. That’s because there are services that will buy unwanted gift cards for a portion of a card’s value. Cardcash is a company that will provide services whereby you can sell, trade or buy discounted gift cards.


The services determine the amount to be paid based on the popularity of the card that is being sold and they also sell gift cards at a discount. This is a good option for people who often shop at the same store and want to maximize their savings.


Giving gift cards to help pay for necessities soared following the pandemic. Gift cards for gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases are gifts that have value for anyone living on a tight budget. Gift cards are like any other gift that you give.


Before you choose one, you should think about the person you are giving the card to and consider their likes and dislikes. Try to select a card that will be appreciated, and used. For example, if you have a sneakerhead in your life, see if these shoe lover-approved brands are offering gift cards.


Or you could just give cash. No one ever said no to free money.


Photo via US Postal Inspector