Gift Card Vs. Gift

Updated on March 22, 2010
A.R. asks from Nashua, NH
19 answers

Hi moms,
My husband and I have ongoing debates as to whether gift cards are better than actual gifts. He prefers gift cards, saying that the recipient may not like or need/want what we pick out. Better that they pick out what they like. I would rather pick out a gift according to the person's personality. Also, I don't like that the money amount is so obvious in a gift card. I like the idea of giving some thought to the gift and adding that personal touch. A gift card seems to be rather impersonal. I don't mind giving gift cards to people I don't know too well, but for family members or close friends I like to pick out something. What do you all think? thanks!

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answers from Boston on

I prefer gifts over gift cards as well... for all the same reasons you do. I actually prefer a homemade gift if at all possible (both giving and receiving.) Having said that, some people are just too hard (brother, FIL - lookin' at you!) and often resort to gift cards.



answers from Providence on

It depends. If there is something that I know that the recipient will love and use, then I get it. Otherwise I think a gift card is perfect. Especially if you put thought into where you get the gift card from. Such as gas and grocery cards for college kids. Maybe an airfare gift card for a friend that lives far away. I try to avoid giving a gift just to give it. Most people seem to have enough clutter in their lives without me adding to it.

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answers from New York on

I agree with you.

My husband and I have the same discussion every Christmas. My response is always "why don't we all just get a stack of $20's and pass them arround and be done with it?" I think in most cases it's very tacky to give a gift card to close family and friends.

In some cases it can be a good idea. For example before the recession our close friends would enjoy going out to dinner a few times a month, but he was laid off and now they just don't have the extra money, so since it's something we know they will enjoy and use, we give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Last Christmas we had a debate on what to give our teenage niece. He wanted to just get a gift card. I went to the store with my daughters and we picked out a hoodie/jacket at one of her favorite stores and made sure to get a gift receipt. I figured if she didn't like it she could return it for store credit and it would be just like having a gift card. She loved the hoodie and insisted on wearing it the day we gave it to her.

Happy shopping!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I do like getting gift cards, but I also don't do much shopping for myself unless I'm given them. I do also give cards now & then... if it's someone close I will give a small presonnal gift & also a gift card. That might help w/ them not knowing how much you are spending... but anymore, people can look up about how much you spend just by getting on a computer if they want to.

Gift cards are just the new way of givning cash... actually I still give my baby sister cash. The book stores she like to shop doesn't offer gift cards & she is going to be heading to Germany this summer as a forien exchange student, so she has been saving up money for spending over there.

Most people are understanding - we have 4 kids & one on the way... they know we can't afford much & are greatful that we think of them period. Actually - the main gifts I give are pictures of the family... and most of my close family & friends are thrilled to get an updated picture. Sorry, but personnaly, I think people spend to much money to try to make other people happy anymore.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Why not do both? Give a gift card along with a small token gift that is thoughtful and personal. For example, my nieces love Justice or Aeropostale. I get them an item from the store as well as a gift card to that particular store. I do the same with my aunt who loves perfume and makeup from Macy's. At my daughter's birthday party this year, the girls make pizza and ice cream sundaes after roller skating. So in the goody bag I put a $3 gift card to the local pizzeria and a $5 gift card to Carvel. I still have the screeches in my head from their excitement lol!!!



answers from Springfield on

Hi... All-in-all I prefer gifts over gift cards because gifts are more personal. We have lots of nieces and nephews ranging in age from 6mos to over forty (I am 41, the youngest of six). I try to give gifts to the younger kids because I think they so enjoy opening gifts and may not understand what the card represents. For the older kids and adults, I give them gift cards or cash because they often request it and I often cannot afford what they want so my gift can go toward their desired purchase. If I find something I think they will really like, I ask a parent/partner for confirmation. I also always give gift receipts and make clear I will not be offended if the gift is exchanged. When buying for my kids' teachers and the like, I give gift cards because I've been told they'd prefer that to knick knacks that take up room on their desks. I don't know if this helps at all. I know my mother-in-law refuses to buy gift cards and sometimes I wish she would :-)

I just remembered, last year at Christmas my brother gave cash to all of our teen-aged nieces and nephews but he went out and bought an origami book and folded the bills into neat shapes and put them in small gift boxes. It was just cash but he still took a little time dress it up...



answers from Boston on

You could always include a gift receipt with the gift, that way if the person really does not like or need the gift he/she may return it. I agree that a well thought out gift is better, but I do think it's nice to include a gift receipt.



answers from Washington DC on

For me, it depends on the person, and the type of gift card.

If the person is into a hobby, I get a gift card to their favorite supply store so that they can get something as they need it.

If its a kid I don't know, I get a card to Toys R Us so that they can pick it out.

I have a niece who loves clothes and girly things, so I buy her a gift/clothes, etc, but I have a nephew that no matter what I buy - clothes, etc. I never see it again. So for him I just get a card.



answers from Austin on

It just depends on the person. I love beautifully wrapped packages and the perfect gift. If I find the absolute perfect gift, I will purchase it.

If they seem to have everything or do not have much money, I like to give gift cards so they can pick what they really want and would not normally purchase for themselves. I know in our family, we have everything and do not need things.. We love going to the movies, restaurants, and theater so we love gift cards. Our daughter loves books, so a gift card to any book store is a dream for her.

We on purpose give our parents gift cards to places to encourage them to get out and about.



answers from Boston on

I agree with you although gift cards to a store that has a personal connection are nice. Does your husband do the shopping for the gifts or the gift cards? If not, tell him you can do it your way or he can take over the thrill of giving gifts.



answers from Tulsa on

My FIL gives me and my husband $50.00 bills in our own individual Christmas cards every year. I love it and so does my husband. I have bought a years supply of particular food I like, one year I bought several books. I like the freedom I have from not having to display something I think is ugly so someone else won't feel bad.

We have a small group of friends and we always go in on a pre-paid Visa or MasterCard for one of our group. That way she can buy those little things that are so special, like cable, DVD's, things most people take for granted, she has to budget for them.

We always have a big lunch or something to make it more special and the time we spend is always fun.



answers from Denver on

I love gift cards! I can use them to buy what I want rather than what someone thinks I want. It's the thought that counts, though, so if you find a gift you think they like than buy it. But, please remember to include a gift receipt.



answers from San Francisco on

For me it depends on the person. I appreciate gifts because you know they took the time, thought, and effort to get something for you. Now if its for my nephews, my older ones always get gift cards, they are way to hard to shop for they want expensive electronic gadgets from certain sites.



answers from Boston on

I am totally in favor of gift cards. Many people have everything we need and i feel strongly that it is MUCH better to be able to buy something for myself than have something chosen for me. And I still write thank you cards, a gift card is still a present and deserves acknowledgement.

If you must give a gift ABSOLUTELY a gift receipt is essential - I think people in general these days have too much "stuff" and even if you think you got them the perfect thing, they may already have it so give the receipt and make sure they know it's ok to return it.

Either way, the amount can be determined so it's not like a gift somehow hides the amount you've spent, and seriously, if someone is analyzing it to that detail they don't deserve a gift OR a gift card.

Some of my favorite gift cards are to the grocery store. Seriously, it's something I need and will consume anyway, to get someone else to contribute is a great gift.

Even better, make arrangements with your family to not give gifts if possible at holidays & birthdays - instead donate to charity or all go out for dinner or something. We only give presents to the children. Adults don't get birthday or other gifts on either side of our families. We have enough stuff.

Good luck reaching a compromise!



answers from Minneapolis on

I do a small gift that I made (a scarf, a bottle of homemade laundry detergent, a container of homemade cookies) and a small gift card. With the economy being tough on most everyone, even if I could afford more, I wouldn't want the other person feel like they couldn't afford to reciprocate. Nothing worse than getting a really expensive gift and knowing that you can't "return the favor." I was very proud of my 12 yr old daughter recently - she went to a b'day party for a good friend of hers and she chose to give her a necklace that she owned that the friend had admired numerous times and then she walked to Walmart and spent $2.50 on a bottle of nail polish. She made the card and the container to wrap the stuff in and her friend really enjoyed the gift.

Good luck :)



answers from Hartford on

Gift card or cash any day!



answers from Minneapolis on

I am with you. I almost always appreciate the thought and effort that goes into gift giving as much as the gift itself. I worry that gift cards say, "I didn't have the time or energy to get you a real gift. Go get one yourself."

I know...I know...That is not what gift card lovers think. It is just my opinion.



answers from Boston on

That's a really good question you pose. Here's the way I look at it. I sometimes do gift cards, but I'm particular about the place I get the gift card.

For example, I know my brother and sister in law are partial to the this boutique cheese store near their house, so last year for their anniversary I got them $50 gift card from that store. Yes, it's a gift card, but it's to a place that I know they love, and they get the joy of picking out a variety of unique cheeses to enjoy.

My neice loves to make bracelets and necklaces so I got her a gift card to a local independant bead store so she can pick out her own beads and supplies. I got her brother a gift card to an independant bookstore that specializes in mysteries (his favorites!) to pick out his own books.

My point is that gift cards do have their place, especially if you are supporting independant merchants instead of big chain stores. There are ways to personalize gift cards by paying attention to what the recipient likes and enjoys and then buying appropriatly.

Hope this helps. Have fun with your debate! :)

PS: It's not the amount that you spend on the present (or gift card), its the thought that counts. If someone has the nerve to complain about how much I spend on a gift card, then I don't give that person a gift again. It's about the spirit of giving, not the size of the gift!


answers from Boston on

I agree with you, with the exception of holiday gifts to people like my trash collector, paper delivery driver and letter carrier. I give them gift cards because I don't know them well, and because they may get a lot of useless gifts from their many customers. Sometimes home-baked items are nice for them too, though. It shows you put a little effort into it. Like cookies with a coffee shop gift card.

I give gifts that show I actually took some time to think about them, and I include a gift receipt. If I am giving gifts to my nieces who live 3000 miles a way, I always buy at a chain store that has a branch near them, or I buy on line from a major catalog company like LL Bean. This year I did send my niece one gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond specifically because she had just moved into her first apartment and I knew she needed stuff to furnish it. Otherwise, I agree with the previous post about "why don't we just sit around and pass out $20 bills to each other" - excessive gift carding says "I don't have time to think about you or shop for you, but I can manage 30 seconds to run in and throw some money at the courtesy desk." And you are right about the amount just staring them in the face.

One other time I think gift cards are appreciated is by graduating high school seniors - they have huge expenses for college. Even then, I try to give a gift card for their college bookstore, to make it a little more personal. I also sometimes buy something like a college t-shirt, knowing they can exchange it when they get on campus.

I think your husband's viewpoint reflects a societal trend - we don't think we know people well enough to choose something, and gift-giving becomes more of a transaction. We have to get back to assuming that people might like what we choose, if we put thought into it, and also that they are gracious enough to be pleased that we made the effort. We are getting more and more impersonal these days - people send e-cards because they don't actually have to go out and choose something and write a personal message and find a stamp. Like that's really so hard to do? And when kids (and adults) get a gift card that took zero time to choose, they don't feel they need to take the time to actually write a thank you note. Our manners are declining, and I think that's a shame.

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