10 Reasons Why Gift Cards Suck

When we announced the availability of free Consumerist anti-gift cards yesterday, we were surprised to see so many pro-gift card comments. So, we decided to put together a quick list of the reasons we think gift cards are lame — especially compared to cash.

1. Bank gift cards come with upfront fees. If you’re giving someone a gift, why should you get stuck paying a fee for the privilege? But you do, and those fees can be as much as $7.95, plus shipping.

2. Bank gift cards can come with dormancy fees. Some fees are as high as $2.50 per month, and kick in after just 6 months. So, if you don’t use that card fast, you could end up paying for the privilege of owning it, and end up with a worthless piece of plastic after just a few months. American Express recently announced it was dropping all dormancy fees, and the CARD Act will ban them until a card has been unused for 12 months, but they’re not going to disappear across-the-board anytime soon.

3. Bank cards can come with fees for no reason at all. At least one card we know of has a $2.50 per month “maintenance fee” after six months, just because.

4. Bank gift cards can expire. Not all do, but some can become worthless after two years.

5. Bank gift cards can require “reauthorization.” Many carry a misleading “valid thru” date. This isn’t an expiration date, but the card won’t work after this date unless you contact the bank and request a new card.

6. Retailer gift cards are usually only valid at a single retailer. Gee, thanks, Aunt Mabel. I always wanted to check out the menswear section at Forever 21.

7. Retailers can go bankrupt. When The Sharper Image went under last year, it suspended all gift cards. While other retailers, such as Brookstone, were willing to take the cards, they did so at just 25 cents on the dollar.

8. Gift cards can make you spend more money.
According to a recent survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 65% of gift card users end up spending more than the card’s face value. That’s great news for retailers, but not for consumers, who may feel they have to spend the last $6.12 on a card, and end up making a $10 purchase to do so.

9. Gift cards lose value over time even without fees. Thanks to inflation, an unused gift card can lose as much as 3% of its value every year. You can’t put that unused card into a money-market account until you’re ready to use it.

10. Gift cards don’t always get used. The CRNRC survey also found that 25% of consumers have at least one gift card from last year’s holiday season that they still haven’t used. Forty percent said that the reason they haven’t used the cards yet is that they haven’t found anything worth buying. If those cards have dormancy fees or expiration dates, they could be worthless by the time they turn up at the bottom of the sock drawer a few years from now.

So, what’s the solution? You already know the answer: cash. It never expires, doesn’t carry any fees, and can earn interest until you’re ready to use it. And you can use it just about anywhere.

You can also dress up your cash with a free Consumerist Anti-Gift Card. Send us a SASE and we’ll send you a card that you’ll be proud to give to anyone on your list — as long as you actually include some cash with it.

Comments

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  1. Dutchess says:

    I think the Sharper Image reference is the WORST offender on this list.

    If you recall they went Bankrupt at the begining of the new year, right after the Christmas holiday season. They continued selling gift cards KNOWING they were going to file bankruptcy. (A company that size just doesnt file BK over night).

    They knowingly sold cards that would be worthless in a few months. I sent an email to the CEO at the time and accused him and his company of outright fraud.

  2. El_Fez says:

    And the number one reason cash rules? You can spend it ANYwhere. Want a burger? BAM! Hate wallmart with a passion? Problem solved! Need to make rent? Got it covered! Want to shop at a obscure internet store? Easy peasy. Want to buy online porn without shame? Done and done!

    Seriously, gift cards suck. I’d rather get the moolah any day of the week.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      You can use cash to buy online porn? How does that work?

      • LatherRinseRepeat says:

        I’m assuming El_Fez means that when you receive cash as a gift, you can deposit it in your account and use the money however you wish.

        Because from my experience, most landlords will not accept cash for rent payments. It either has to be a personal check or money order.

        • diasdiem says:

          Well yeah, because otherwise it would mean that once a month every apartment office would have thousands of dollars in cash lying around. Who’d bother robbing banks or convenience stores?

    • Smashville says:

      Where can you buy online porn in cash?

      My…uh…friend…wants to know.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      I will happily receive both gift cards and cold hard cash. I’ll use ‘em! But I do agree it sucks getting a gift card for some place you don’t really have any interest in. On the other hand, if someone is getting me a gift card to a place I don’t like they would more than likely buy me some ugly sweater or a DVD of a movie I hated instead.

      Also if you get an Amazon gift certificate you can buy porn without none the wiser, right? Or a gift certificate to a porn emporium. Do they make those? I bet they do.

    • El_Fez says:

      ADDENDUM – while I don’t give gift cards, I do occasionally take up restaurants on thier “Buy 25 bucks, get a 5 buck coupon for yourself” deals when I know I’ll be spending 30 bucks on a night out.

    • diasdiem says:

      People spend money on online porn?

    • SteveZim1017 says:

      1. Bank gift cards come with upfront fees.
      Most banks offer feeless giftcards to members who have an account in good standing

      2. Bank gift cards can come with dormancy fees.
      CAN being the operative word, this site is all about being a good comsumer, so be one, do your research and get a card that doesnt

      3. Bank cards can come with fees for no reason at all.
      another CAN. again, be smart

      4. Bank gift cards can expire.
      yey for CAN. many states make this illegal, check if yours does

      5. Bank gift cards can require “reauthorization.”
      Gotcha, if I sit on my gift card (that works anywhere that takes Visa/MC) for over 2 years I gotta call someone.

      6. Retailer gift cards are usually only valid at a single retailer.
      and many work at multiple stores as well. If you have ABSOLUTELY no idea what the person you are giving the gift card to actually likes… well that kinda defeats half the purpose of the gift doesnt it?

      7. Retailers can go bankrupt.
      yep, got nothing for this one, places close.

      8. Gift cards can make you spend more money.
      this is a dubious statistic and we all know it. people dont buy something they dont want to get rid of the gift card remainder. they put the remainder towards something they were planning on getting, so instead of getting it free they get it at a fraction of the cost to themselves.

      9. Gift cards lose value over time even without fees.
      so does cash. are you suggesting we have to invest our christmas money until we spend it? how much do YOU get for christmas?!?

      10. Gift cards don’t always get used.
      within a year for this statistic? they are saving it for something they really want, good for them. I have a 20 i keep in my car that i havent spent in 20 years… just in case

      So, what’s the solution? You already know the answer: cash.

      did you know you cant use Cash online? hey, did you want yo make than cell phone payment over the phone so its not late? cash wont help… if only you had that visa/MC gift card…

    • ShadowFalls says:

      There are some cases where gift cards can actually make more sense. Rather than putting all your hopes in that all so “reliable” postal service, online gift cards can be seen as a viable gift for friends and/or family some distance away. Amazon in particular sells even some grocery items.

      Gift cards do have their limits yea, but some see cash as less personal, less thoughtful. Ofcourse you can always put cash in a little box, wrap it, put it in a bigger box, and so on.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    “6. Retailer gift cards are usually only valid at a single retailer. Gee, thanks, Aunt Mabel. I always wanted to check out the menswear section at Forever 21.”

    This has always been a problem with communication, not with the gift card giving itself. Aunt Mabel should be made aware that personal tastes change – and as such, Forever 21 is not the way to go. I think people genuinely want to give something nice, but they need instruction. If it’s less of a surprise, then so be it. At least you won’t be getting a gift card to a store you don’t even shop at. I used to get gift cards from stores I never go to – then I couldn’t take it anymore, and when the holidays rolled around, I sent a list of stores I do go to. I thought people would be annoyed, but it seems everyone was actually happy to have some directions on what to do. If I received a gift card to Sears, I probably wouldn’t be able to use it – but I could probably use it to get something for someone else. The key to nip it in the bud is to communicate with the giftgivers that their gift cards are not exactly in line with your tastes. If you’re in fairly frequent conversations with them, just start dropping store names during conversation. “You saw that movie too? We saw that the other night, and had dinner. Then I got this really cute sweater from The Limited…” and no one is the wiser. You can reaffirm your choices later, when the usual “let me know what you want!” emails get sent back and forth.

    Now, does anyone have any solutions as to how to convince my aunt (who sees me once a month) that I am not a size XL.

    • Kuchen says:

      My mother-in-law used to always buy me things from the junior’s department. I finally convinced her not to do that….and then she started buying me things from the kind of stores that sell holiday-themed sweaters and “mom jeans”. Apparently there is no in-between.

    • lucky929 says:

      Loudly talk about buying clothes, saying “I tried X on in a small, but it was too small. Large was too large. Medium was just right…” only with whatever size is applicable? same method as you, different approach?

      I had the same problem with my aunt. I had my mom tell her I actually like my clothes to fit now that I’m out of the awkward teenage baggy clothes years.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      Maybe you could try something like, “I went to get a sweater but of course they never have my size, *insert correct size here*.” Or just simply, “they never have *size*.” Worth a shot, anyway!

  4. diasdiem says:

    In all fairness, cash is subject to #9. It’s just reduced slightly by the interest you earn.

    • Veeber says:

      But with cash if you don’t spend it right away you can at least deposit it in your bank and earn a little interest on it. With the gift card you are forced to spend it. If I had gotten gift cards for Chinese New Year I would have had a lot more toys and video games. Instead I got cash and deposited most of it and got to use it to help with my down payment … albeit it was 15 years later.

  5. Jevia says:

    What I dislike about bank cards is that in order to use it, you have to know exactly how much is on the card. You can’t just swipe the card and have the cashier tell you the remaining balance you owe. Its not a terrible problem if your purchase is more than the card and the card is for an even dollar amount. But I’ve had bank cards for like $100 and then I use it for $56.42, I have to remember the balance of $43.58 in order to use it the next time.

    I also hate that most rebates are now in these bank ‘gift’ card forms, forcing me to spend the money on something else instead of using the money to pay off the item’s purchase charge on my credit card.

    • jecowa says:

      My dad took several of the rebate cards from Verizon to the bank and they were able to deposit them into his account.

  6. tbiscuit360 says:

    #11: You don’t get reward zone points from Best Buy if you use a zipcode

  7. LandShark says:

    I still think most of these reasons are kind of silly and superfluous. If I get a $50 gift card for a place like Best Buy, that’s totally safe. So what if I spend an extra $10 to use it all? I still walk out of there with two new Blu-rays for $10 out of my own pocket. I’m perfectly happy to do that. Same thing with chain restaurants – I won’t go there normally, but gift cards give me an excuse to splurge. It’s also nicer to give someone an actual gift card rather than cold hard cash (which is the only thing even *less* personal than a gift card).

    • myrna_minkoff says:

      It’s totally safe … unless you lose the card or the store goes under, or you wait too long to use the card and the balance has been eaten by fees.

      • LandShark says:

        None of that has ever happened to me, probably because I always use them within a couple days of receiving them. Maybe when it does I’ll be skeptical of gift cards.

    • BytheSea says:

      You’re severely underusing the internet if you buy movies new at Best Buy when you can get them on half.com or amazon.com or any of the zillion discount dvd websites for as littleas $5, or at least half off.

      That’s another irritating thing a bout gift cards – you often have to use it to buy things fullprice at a well known retailer instead of hunting around for a better deal.

      • LandShark says:

        I buy almost everything on the Internet. I’m just saying that every year, when my mom (who’s not particularly imaginative when it comes to gifts) gets me a BB card, I enjoy the excuse to walk in there and buy some stuff for a net cost to me that’s far less than I can get anywhere on the ‘Net.

  8. coren says:

    I think my favorite part is that the claims (by Visa, at least) that their cards are exempt from state laws mandating gift card regulations as well.

  9. larry123 says:

    One problem I run into with cash is one of my family members is Mormon. If I give them or their kids cash they give 10% of it to the church. If I give them a gift card then it doesn’t count.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You may not agree with their principles or beliefs, but it’s up to them how they want to spend the gift you give them. You giving them gift cards because with cash, they’ll tithe, is kind of controlling. Plus, they could actually just donate your gift card to a person in the church who is needy. Then you’ll be supporting a Mormon person entirely with your gift. Then again, if you give an actual gift to the child, that child may learn from his or her horrible, evil churchgoing parents that giving to others is a good thing, and if he or she gives that toy to a child who doesn’t have any toys, you’ve just supported a Mormon person yet again!

      Maybe you should just stop giving gifts to the Mormon relatives if you’ve got such a problem with how they choose to enjoy your gifts to them.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        It might not be that they have an issue with the tithing but not using all of it for something fun. Some people would rather you use gift money on something fun rather than on bills.

        That said, I don’t see why their Mormon friends couldn’t or wouldn’t just calculate what 10% of the gift card is and then tithe that much extra.

        • mythago says:

          So, again, it’s not so much a gift as a little passive-aggressive power trip: here’s a present but I’m going to try to control how you enjoy it.

  10. selianth says:

    I never mind getting gift cards/certificates to Amazon.com. It’s hard to go wrong there, since even though it’s locking you in to “one retailer” you can get just about anything. As far as I’m concerned it’s 99% as good as cash.

  11. Kuchen says:

    We do most of our grocery shopping at SuperTarget, and I’ve told most of my family that if they must buy gift cards, they should buy us Target gift cards. My thought is always “Woo-hoo, free groceries!” However, my husband thinks that because it’s a gift, we have to spend the gift card on something special. I’ve tried to convince him that we can spend the gift card on normal purchases, and then use the money that we didn’t have to spend on groceries to do whatever we want, like go out to dinner or see a movie instead of trying to find something “special” to buy at Target.

  12. scoosdad says:

    “Uh, I’m sticking the money into the slot now…. do you have it yet?”

    • scoosdad says:

      Oh spit, this new commenting is buggy. That was supposed to be a reply to speedwell, avatar of snark below, about how to use cash to buy porn online.

      Is anyone else’s comment entry box going completely blank after a preview, when you return to the box to edit something? It’s driving me crazy. Firefox v3.5.5

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        I’ve been seeing people’s replies show up both as a reply and as a separate comment.

        The comments don’t always seem to be displayed in the same order either, especially when going through pages of comments. It’s like ti can’t decide whether to show the newest or the oldest first.

        • Kuchen says:

          I’ve also noticed the comment order changing today. It’s especially annoying with replies to threads when the newest reply shows up before the older ones.

        • myrna_minkoff says:

          Thank you for saying this….I thought I was losing my mind.

        • scoosdad says:

          Yup. A minute ago the comments in this article were sorted oldest to newest. Now it’s back to newest to oldest. Definitely something flaky going on, or someone is tinkering with the code in real time.

          • Marc Perton says:

            We’re working on some changes to try to improve the commenting system. Sorry for the confusion!

  13. MMD says:

    I think bank-issued gift cards are tools of the devil for all of the reasons mentioned…but here’s a pro-retailer gift card statement that I haven’t seen anyone mention. Assuming the giver chooses the retailer wisely, the gift card also gives the recipient the gift of permission to buy something fun or indulgent.

    I’m a knitter, and nice yarn can be pretty pricey. But when I’ve received gift certificates to yarn shops, I can get that nice yarn for a project without guilt, and without having to skimp on the quality of the yarn.

  14. Bohemian says:

    Those nice thick plastic gift cards make great scrapers. I leave one (already used) in the car to scrape frost off the windows. They are great dish scrapers to get stuck on food peeled off.

  15. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    About 18% of retail gift cards never get used. (no, I can’t find the link)

    • quail says:

      Some years back I read that around a quarter of all gift cards are never completely used. Little Johnny buys a $20 video game and forgets that there’s $30 still on the card. Jane buys 12 lattes and stops using her card when the balance is down to $0.75. Etc. The article talked about the states wanting the unused cash that goes past 7 years to wind up in the state coffers and not into the bank accounts of the company.

      Side note: It was about this time that a big, outdoor catalog company contacted my wife about a certificate that her father never used. It was about to expire and had $100 on it. They reissued it to her and asked that it get used. Guess they were nervous that auditors would find good reason for state legislators to pass such a bill. Seriously, there must be hordes of decent cash out there that goes unused.

  16. Wolfbird says:

    Ughn, I hate gift cards.

    Free stuff is always cooler than stuff you had to pay for, but if you’re goin to give me 50 bucks anyway, it’s be more thoughtful of you to let me spend it wherever I want to, when I want to.

    Like I’m really going to fully appreciate that $50 from the local movie theatre when I’d rather pay off those Xmas presents I bought for you and charged to my plastic.

    • Kitamura says:

      Your thank you cards must be very interesting to send…

      “Dear Frank, thank you for the cash. I used it to pay off the bill from buying your gift that you probably found totally useless”

  17. case31 says:

    The other downside to gift cards is sales tax. My parents always buy gift cards and add the tax to the available amount (if sales tax is 7% and they are giving a “$50 gift card”, then they put an extra $3.50 on it). That way you can buy a $50 item without having to fork over your own money for sales tax. Cashiers at stores think I’m crazy when I do it, but then agree it makes total sense after you explain it.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      A local comic shop I frequent does this, sort of. They add the sales tax to the purchase of the gift certificate so the person using it doesn’t have to fork over their own money if the sales tax causes the purchase to exceed the amount on the GC.

    • annexw says:

      Wouldn’t that apply to cash as well? Or do I live in a magically province that doesn’t charge tax on gift cards?

  18. absherlock says:

    I just got two gift cards from my bank (TD) for my daughter and nephew. There were no purchase fees and there are no monthly charges until after 365 days. I’m not concerned about any possible expirations or reauthorizations as I don’t expect them to go unused for very long.

    A lot of your reasons are pretty lame and due to consumers not researching the product they’re buying. This report isn’t worthy of the local news.

    • milrtime83 says:

      At best your gift cards are equal to cash, never better, so why bother with them?

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        By your logic, then, cash is no better than the TD gift cards, so why bother? It might be that the daughter and nephew live far away. There’s no indication of age, so they might both be in college, or live somewhere else. Since you can’t send cash in the mail, and it’s not the most secure thing in the world, why not a gift card?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      due to consumers not researching the product they’re buying

      Yeah, which is why they posted a list of the problems you can run into with gift cards. If people tend to not know this stuff then how is it an ‘unworthy’ article?

    • nofelix says:

      Gift cards are given as gifts… so the the person buying is not the person spending.

  19. bhr says:

    I know I have gift cards from last December still. Borders, Best Buy and AMC. The AMC card won’t scan and they won’t take it otherwise. And I cant justify paying 20% over Amazon to use the card at best buy/borders. (Plus Best Buy doesn’t work for direct download programs)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But every AMC gift card has a serial number. They can just as easily type that into the system. We got some Best Buy cards last year, and the price of what we bought was about $10 over Amazon but it was a gift card! We paid NOTHING!

  20. quail says:

    I must admit, the only part that has me on the fence with it all is getting gift certificates to expensive restaurants. Damn, do I love my Ruth Chris steakhouse. That said, if someone handed me $200 and a note to take my wife out to dinner with it we’d still have a good time and Ruth Chris. (A once every 4 to 5 year experience.)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That’s the thing with cash. I get cash, I’m probably just going to buy a ton of coffee with it, and lunch, and pay some bills, and yeah I won’t be paying bills out of my own pocket like usual, which is a good feeling…but not having to pay that $80 bill one month doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to go to Ruth Chris to celebrate.

      I like getting gift cards to good restaurants because then I can actually have a good time. And the benefit is, my parents know exactly which restaurants I enjoy, so I’d never get stuck with an Outback Steakhouse gift card.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Expensive restaurants can be tricky. My wife was given a $100 gift certificate by a restaurant she’s done business with. The manager also comped our dessert and her glass of wine, which was exceedingly generous. We still dropped over $100 ourselves, with the bulk of that going towards the tip. The next time she received a gift certificate, we passed it along to my parents.

      A friendly reminder to those using coupons/gift certificates in restaurants – make sure to tip your server based on the full value of the meal, not the discounted rate.

  21. Tim says:

    My company gave out Christmas “bonuses” in the form of Amex gift cards last year; I got $75. I used them pretty quickly for restaurants and such. If they do it again this year, I’m totally paying bills with them.

  22. hoi-polloi says:

    Another issue I’ve run into is having a store gift card tucked safely away at home when I happen to go to the store in question. It happened more than once when I went grocery shopping or to the movies and decided to run into Barnes and Noble. As someone that likes a lean wallet, there’s no way I’m carrying around gift cards without a clear intention of using them that day.

    I don’t mind spending slightly more than the amount on the card, so long as it’s on something I actually want. If I left a significant amount on the card, I’d feel I was wasting the other person’s money. (Not that it’s somehow better to waste my own.)

    I’ve convinced my wife to give our older nephews cash rather than gift cards this year, although they weren’t disappointed with Game Stop gift cards last year. Some say cash is impersonal, but I’ve yet to see anyone disappointed by it.

  23. the atomic bombshell says:

    I don’t think Ontario has bank cards (I’ve never heard of them except on the Consumerist, anyway). And our gift cards don’t have expirations or fees.

    As for me, I’m never going to forget about a gift card, cause I tend to spend those suckers ASAP. So as long as it’s at a store I like, we cool.

    • valueofaloonie says:

      Same for me, but sub in “Alberta” for “Ontario”. I’m always surprised when “people don’t use gift cards!” is trotted out as an excuse not to give them.

      Mine are generally used within a week, so…

  24. roguemarvel says:

    I don’t know..they say the best gifts is something you would want but would never buy for yourself. My husband and I just got married and moved and could really use some more furniture for our apartment, I’ve already picked out some of the pieces at Ikea, but with out money situation I just don’t feel right about spending the money. My parents are giving us money to decorate, but again because of money concerns I’m more likely to spend it on bills. My in-laws are thinking about giving us a gift card to ikea. As much as cash would help, it would be awesome to have the gift card because then I won’t feel guilty about getting the furniture I want.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Congrats! We’ve been talking about buying a new couch, but again – spending that kind of money just seems pretty daunting. We’re probably going to sit on the current couch until it actually falls apart, and then we’ll sit on the cushions for a while before we cave and buy a new couch. Good luck!

  25. jimstoic says:

    1. I agree with the person who wrote that retail gift cards can be a way to get someone to splurge. This is especially true for restaurant cards.
    2. Electronic gift certificates, like those from Amazon, are a great free way to send a gift to someone. Who can’t find anything at Amazon? I’ll gladly accept all the Amazon gift certificates/cards/etc. people want to send me.
    3. That said, my partner has a gift card for iTunes, which he doesn’t use, a gift certificate for lunch at a place out of town, and an old gift card for See’s candy that his boss found in her daughter’s drawer and is probably years old.

  26. GuidedByLemons says:

    5/9/10 begin to look awfully ludicrous once you consider that apply even moreso to actual gifts. You’re not getting any choice about what gift you receive, it’s more likely to be something you don’t want and won’t use, and it certainly doesn’t earn interest (unless your grandma is giving you savings bonds).

  27. Etoiles says:

    I happen to enjoy receiving gift cards to stores that sell things I *like*, as opposed to things I *need.* I don’t trust Grandma’s taste in sweaters, but if she gives me a $30 gift card to the Gap or Macy’s or wherever, I can buy a sweater I really like and will enjoy wearing. If she gives me a $30 card to Barnes and Noble, I can go crazy with paperbacks just for fun. If Grandma gives me $30, I feel compelled to use it for the electric bill or to just put it in my checking account with my paycheck and not spend it, or to buy more veggies I don’t like eating at the grocery store, or something.

    One is a gift. The other is a blip.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree. Plus, I really like writing thank you cards to people for their gifts. It’s just polite. I found that after I got married, and i had to write 50 some thank you cards, that I really enjoyed it. I think people like being thanked through letters or through cards. It’s an extra step that says you actually cared about what they did for you. If they give cash, and I use it for bills, I’d rather say we put it toward savings rather than tell them we used it for bills – but I don’t like lying, so I’d rather get a gift card to something I would feel guilty about buying for myself because i have bills. Because even if I got cash and I paid my bill with it, freeing up the money from my own pocket to buy the thing I want, I still wouldn’t do it out of feeling guilty.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        When did you first start writing thank-you notes? My husband enjoys it, but did his first ones ever when we got married. I hate it but I’ve been doing them since I was old enough to hold a pencil and more or less spell my name.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          When I was a kid, my mom made me write small notes for my birthday gifts and stuff. Then I got older and I could stop. Then I got married, and it wasn’t so much a chore anymore. No one was making me write them, and I enjoyed writing them more.

        • jesusofcool says:

          I sympathize – I’ve had to write lengthy ones and attempt small talk with relatively I barely knew since I was a kid, and now I find thank you notes miserable. I’m trying to figure out whether it’s acceptable now to send an email thank you note to Aunt Judy for whatever little thing she sent me for my birthday…

    • jesusofcool says:

      Same, thanks for saying what I was thinking! If someone gives me cash, I will spend it on groceries or contact solution or something equally boring that I need because I’m a practical person.
      I actually love getting gift cards – my Christmas list is practically gift cards. Because sometimes I’d like a new pair of jeans or a new sweater, and quite frankly, I love my mother but her taste in clothing is not mine…it’s nice to be able to walk in somewhere, even if it’s just Target or CVS and have an excuse to buy that thing I’d like to buy but tell myself I can live without if it’s my money I’m spending. Our mall offers mall-wide gift cards – I like to get my mom one each year because she’s the type of spendthrift that goes to the mall with friends and comes home with nothing because she’s “not desperate for anything.” Also, in some cases, it also doesn’t matter if you spend more than the gift card, because you’d have spent that money in the store anyways. My brother buys lots of video games at Gamestop but no one in my family knows what he likes and most of us can’t afford to buy the newest ones – so he gets a gift card and he puts it towards his pre-order of the next super awesome game.
      This is one case where, IMO, Consumerist isn’t speaking for all consumers. I wouldn’t celebrate the end of store gift cards.

      • Etoiles says:

        Exactly! The “gift,” in this case, isn’t the gift card or the thing(s) you buy with it… It’s the gift of a splurge, a gift of the right to enjoy yourself sometimes, a gift of a day away from pure practicality.

  28. stuporglue says:

    “Thanks to inflation, an unused gift card can lose as much as 3% of its value every year. “

    So does cash, you know?

    • failurate says:

      But you can put cash into an interest earning account. Try depositing a Bed Bath and Beyond gift certificate.

  29. veronykah says:

    I dunno, I personally hate gift cards AND cash as a gift.
    For me, a gift is something I probably wouldn’t buy for myself.
    When I get cash, it goes in the bank and ends up paying bills, not much of a gift.
    When I get gift cards they are usually for Target and I end up buying toothpaste or something…again not much of a gift.
    Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I enjoy getting something that someone put some thought into and that really makes my day.

    • Stephen Colon says:

      While I agree, I also understand what it’s like to be pressed for time, and at least cash/gift cards show SOME thought when you don’t have time to go all-out.

    • myrna_minkoff says:

      I tend to agree, but when I’ve been presented with yet another scented candle/body wash gift set/scarf, I usually find myself thinking, “I wish they’d just given me the $20.”

  30. MooseOfReason says:

    Well, unless you can get a savings rate at a bank above 3%, you’re screwed with cash as well.

    Also, cash can’t be used for an online purchase unless you put it into your checking account.

  31. KrispyKrink says:

    I know several people that request everyone give them either an Apple or Amazon gift card depending on if it’s their birthday or for xmas. Myself included, it’s pretty much how we bankroll a new computer every other year. And nothing in your post applies to these 2 retailers as far as I’m concerned.

  32. justsomeotherguy says:

    So I have always ranted about gift cards “lets take money i can use anywhere and make it so i can only use it one place.” and that kinda shit… so one yer my gf at the times mom buys a bunch of them… then ends up in some kinda bs where she has to sell them… so the gf cries until i buy them from the mom. i was so pissed… i am certain i lost at least 30 bucks on the deal.

  33. Starfury says:

    I like getting cash as a gift. It doesn’t get used for bills or other expenses, I put it in the mini metal safe I’ve had since I was a kid. That money is for stuff I want but isn’t in the normal budget. currently any extra cash I’m given goes into the new computer bank account I have.

    As for gift cards: as long as they’re someplace I shop at they’re fine. I don’t want a bestbuy card but an Amazon one will make me happy.

  34. Double J says:

    I get a gift card, I spend a gift card. I don’t think too much about it. If someone gives me a gift card to Target, I don’t think about what the value is going to be of it in a year because it won’t be around then. I’m going to spend my extra cash on a movie or video game anyways, even if it’s not cash it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t stick around long enough for me to even care.

  35. NydiaGeben says:

    Cash is king. … forget gift cards.

  36. mythago says:

    The exception is when you know somebody well enough to be confident that a) the gift card will be spent and b) the recipient won’t have to dig into their own pocket to do it.

  37. Admiral Byrd says:

    Every year, same sad article. Almost all of these reasons why gift cards suck only apply if the card is not used in a timely fashion. If you are a smart gift-giver and buy a gift card to a retailer that the giftee actually shops at, there is ZERO problem with them. If a person doesn’t use a gift card, that doesn’t make it a bad gift, it means that reciever is stupid.
    Come up with one real problem with a gift card that couldn’t be solved by using it within a month (or better yet, an after Christmas sale) that doesn’t apply to cash as well.

  38. immaculate gaenor says:

    I have a Starbucks card that I load up on a regular basis. Because I like fancy syrup in my coffee and lactaid milk, I registered the card so I get those for free. Using the card saves me $1.20 every time I buy a coffee. Totally worth it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You have a Starbucks gift card or you have the Starbucks Gold card? Cause the gold card is $25 a year.

      • immaculate gaenor says:

        Gift card, not a gold card. I don’t know if we have the gold card up here (in Canada). What is it?

  39. mschroeder says:

    Well of course Bank retail cards suck. Stores are a different story. You shop there, but you don’t shop at a bank.

  40. pinkpetunia says:

    With reference to #9, I doubt relatives are going to adjust the amount of their cash gift to coincide with inflation. Grandma’s gonna stick that $20 bill in the card whether the value of a dollar has gone down or up over the past year. #9 only works in your favor if you deposit the money, and there’s really not any chance that I’m going to go to the bank to deposit a $20 bill. A check is good though :)

  41. pinkpetunia says:

    Furthermore, and some people have mentioned this already, a gift card is just more personal than cash in the right circumstance. Someone above mentioned a gift card to a yarn store. This is a perfect gift for a knitter. It shows that you thought about them and wanted to get them something specific that you know they would like. For the people I know well, I’d way rather give a gift card from somewhere I know that they like, than give them just cash – it just shows that you put at least SOME thought into what they would like as a gift.

  42. Batmanuel says:

    My brother and I always give each other Amazon gift cards for birthdays and such. We can quickly email them to one another and use them to get something fun (cash usually gets put in the bank or spent on necessities).

    The only issue I have is that m job often gives out rewards in the form of Amex gift cards, but they wind up buying a bunch of $25 cards in bulk and handing out two or four at a time. This causes an issue when it comes to spending the cards because it is sometimes hard to find a place with a POS that can handle a transaction with multiple gift cards applied. Because of this instead of spending the cards in one place on one big item, you’re forced to purchase a lot of cheaper items under the value of the individual cards.

  43. SabyneWired says:

    Huh. Seems I’m one of the few who loves getting gift cards. I find it a lot of fun to get that $25 or so card, then go to the store or online and see how I can best spend it.

    (Also, Consumerist folks? Can you please fix the comments? They are only coming up for me after a million refreshes, and even then they aren’t working properly. It’s really getting frustrating.)

  44. Ben Popken says:

    Want a hi-rez version so you can print out 10? Here you go: http://twitpic.com/ryvy6/full

  45. SteveZim1017 says:

    1. Bank gift cards come with upfront fees.
    Most banks offer feeless giftcards to members who have an account in good standing

    2. Bank gift cards can come with dormancy fees.
    CAN being the operative word, this site is all about being a good comsumer, so be one, do your research and get a card that doesnt

    3. Bank cards can come with fees for no reason at all.
    another CAN. again, be smart

    4. Bank gift cards can expire.
    yey for CAN. many states make this illegal, check if yours does

    5. Bank gift cards can require “reauthorization.”
    Gotcha, if I sit on my gift card (that works anywhere that takes Visa/MC) for over 2 years I gotta call someone.

    6. Retailer gift cards are usually only valid at a single retailer.
    and many work at multiple stores as well. If you have ABSOLUTELY no idea what the person you are giving the gift card to actually likes… well that kinda defeats half the purpose of the gift doesnt it?

    7. Retailers can go bankrupt.
    yep, got nothing for this one, places close.

    8. Gift cards can make you spend more money.
    this is a dubious statistic and we all know it. people dont buy something they dont want to get rid of the gift card remainder. they put the remainder towards something they were planning on getting, so instead of getting it free they get it at a fraction of the cost to themselves.

    9. Gift cards lose value over time even without fees.
    so does cash. are you suggesting we have to invest our christmas money until we spend it? how much do YOU get for christmas?!?

    10. Gift cards don’t always get used.
    within a year for this statistic? they are saving it for something they really want, good for them. I have a 20 i keep in my car that i havent spent in 20 years… just in case

    So, what’s the solution? You already know the answer: cash.

    did you know you cant use Cash online? hey, did you want yo make than cell phone payment over the phone so its not late? cash wont help… if only you had that visa/MC gift card…

  46. Pandrogas says:

    The only real reason people give gift cards instead of cash is that it’s more culturally acceptable. Though with our current economy, maybe we’ll start to see this trend ease up.

  47. GIFT.LY says:

    That is crazy, I’m going to add this article as reasons why we’ve declared war against bad gifts like gift cards. Instead of giving people gift cards, ask them what gifts they really want with http://gift.ly

  48. anduin says:

    But what if the person I get the card for is impossible to shop for but I know the type of store they frequent? Is that really a loss situation then? I always get gift cards, takes no effort, I spend maybe an hour or two shopping 3 days before Christmas and I’m done. I also never give enough that they have to make repeat trips, they should be able to buy a medium priced item at whatever store I bought it at.

  49. Tiandli says:

    Gift Cards have a brand name on them which gives the illusion that the gifter put the merest hint of thought into the present. Beyond the illusion, the person receiving the gift is locked in on buy items at that particular store and they must spend the amount within a limited time.

    Personally, I would much rather give some money than have to force them to spend it at a store they didn’t want. Also, if people want to use that money to pay utility bills or their 401k, the peace of mind for their current stability or future retirement is invaluable.