Will Making Gift Cards Entirely Virtual Make Them Better?

We at Consumerist have long taken a stance against gift cards: they’re like giving someone a gift of cash, only with rules and limitations. What’s the point of that? There’s a whole secret economy in unused gift cards in America: up to 20% of the things are never used up. But some planned changes to gift cards could theoretically make them easier to spend and harder to lose.

How would that work? Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that some companies like Google and specialized startups want to make gift cards part of online payment systems: sort of a virtual wallet. In a simultaneously convenient and creepy twist, your smartphone could even nag you about your virtual gift cards: using GPS capabilities to notice when you’re near a store that you have a credit for and let you know.

Convenient, or creepy?

Will virtual gift cards mean the end of plastic? [Consumer Reports]
A Virtual Fix for ‘Broken’ Gift-Card Business [BusinessWeek]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.