What Will You Do With Your Gift Card Haul?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, odds are you’re a gift card or three richer than you were before. Perhaps your employer blanket-gifted the office with them in lieu of a year-end bonus, or maybe a friend or work contact slipped you one as a show of appreciation.

In a PF Firewall post, the author argues the gift cards are rote, insincere gifts that don’t mean or say anything. While I acknowledge his point, I think they have some merit. They give you the power to determine what your gift will be, and they’re more fun than cash, because you have no option to squirrel the funds away or use them on something boring. Plus, if you don’t use them on yourself, you can always pass them along to someone who might appreciate them.

What’s your philosophy on gift cards? And if you’re shuffling a new deck of gift cards, which ones did you get, and what do you plan on doing with them?

Gift Cards: The Enemy of Sincerity [PF Firewall]


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  1. qualityleashdog says:

    I used my $20 gift card coupled with a $20 bill to fill up my gas tank at a Jay-C store, a grocery owned by Kroger. My tank could only hold $37, so I went back to claim my $3 and the clerk refused to give me my cash. She handed me back a gift card with $3 on it. I griped to the shift manager, store manager and corporate. They didn’t really care, just told me that they’d talk to the offending clerk.
    Damned gift cards.

    • Alvis says:
      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Because nowhere on that page does it say “If you pay with a combination of cash and a gift card, we will use the cash first.”

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        The OP didn’t say it was a Kroger gift card, just that s/he had used it at a Kroger-owned store. It easily could’ve been a Visa/Amex/Mastercard one. Regardless, it’s a pretty crappy practice. I usually use my gift cards at gas stations as well, otherwise I end up with balances of $.13 or another difficult to get rid of, miniscule amount. $50 gift card? I use it once for $30 and another time for $20. Done!

        • qualityleashdog says:

          It was a Kroger Gift card, I presented it first and told the clerk I wanted to use it. She asked if I wanted the card back, and I said to throw it away. What about that would make her think I wanted $3 put back on it? Crappy practice to get the customer’s cash and make them return yet again to spend the card, and hey, since it’s only $3, they could expect you to throw more cash in since what am I going to buy for only $3 without making a time wasting special trip?

    • coren says:

      Not that you should have to, nor is it your fault, but the easiest way to resolve that is always to fudge facts a little and pretend you don’t know the current balance on the card, and say you’d like to use it first. This way you exhaust it if it’s exhaustible by your purchase.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    This year was actually the first in a long time I got no gift cards whatsoever
    I did get some cash though :)

    • Michaela says:

      Same here. I was surprised that nobody turned the money into target gift cards (which is usually what I get instead of checks).

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    I didn’t get any gift cards this year. I got books (history), a jacket, some bills paid off and a new set of tires. All practical gifts in my mind.

  4. GetOutOfDebt.org says:

    Gift cards are more economically productive than a gift someone will not use.

    If you want to gift a gift with real meaning behind it, give your time, take them out, make them cookies. But if you want to give a gift that can be best utilized a gift card is an exceptional way to do it, outside of cash.

    Just yesterday I used a gift card for lunch and bought some items we needed with another.

    But all that being said, a gift card that goes unused is worthless but then again so is gift cash that is lost.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      Exactly. I love gift cards, as long as they’re for a store I’m willing to visit. Infinitely better than yet another smelly bath product gift basket.

      Of course, I’m not a big fan of the gift card to Walmart.

  5. dolemite says:

    I like gift cards. You can call them insincere if you want, but I’d rather be able to buy myself something I really want rather than: “Oh…you got me Modern Warfare 1. Thanks…I played that 2 years ago and sold it on Ebay for $20 after I was tired of it…but here it is again. I love it.”

    • TooManyHobbies says:

      Cash is way better than gift cards. I have yet to see someone open a card, see Benjamin looking out at them, and not be happy.

      • Bativac says:

        LOL! I have yet to see Benjamin looking out at me! More likely it’s Washington or The Great Emancipator… thanks, Grandma!

        • JonStewartMill says:

          I remember getting birthday cards from my grandma with a dime taped inside. Of course, back then you could actually buy something with a dime — like ten pieces of penny candy.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Good point. I hope that people will just give me B&N gift cards instead of physical books – I have a nook color now, and I’d really like to stop buying physical books when I can just buy the ebook or get them from the library.

  6. Brunette Bookworm says:

    I used mine from work to buy a stainless steel saucier pan. Yay gift to myself! That’s the only gift cards I got. Since our corporate office determines bonuses, gift cards are the easiest way to give all the employees at our plant a little something extra at the end of the year. We give away plain Visa cards so they can be used anywhere.

  7. Bativac says:

    I got a couple gift cards for Home Depot and Lowe’s, which is good because it sort of forces me to take on some of the home improvement projects I keep meaning to get to. Like Phil said, gift cards are a little more imaginative than cash, though not as imaginative as, say, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wool pullover cap my dad got me.

    I also got one from some sporting goods store, proving that there are extended family members who know nothing about me. But, a gift is a gift, and I apreciate it all the same. Maybe I can trade it or sell it or something.

    • Jubes says:

      We bought our house just before Christmas ’08. As a Christmas/housewarming gift we got $300 to Rona. It took us awhile to spend it all, but we used in on insulation, light fixtures, a dehumidifier and to replace some missing trim pieces around the house.

  8. andyg8180 says:

    $10 gift card to subway or a $10 candle? I’ll tell you which one i would be content with… “oh, a candle, nice” or “oh, lunch for work this week”

    It’s deifnitly a better use of money if you let someone choose how to spend it at a particular location instead of giving them something they’ll shelve and collect dust… or regift lol

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      This is how I view it. At least with a gift card I can buy what I want.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      That would depend. If it was a really nice candle, and someone had put some thought into it, I would appreciate it more than a gift card. OTOH, if they really didn’t know what to get for me, a 10$ tucked into a nice card is a perfectly acceptable gift, and much better than a gift card.

  9. NotEd says:

    The only gift card I received this year was one through a Secret Santa at my office. As we had to come up with suggestions to give to our secret santa’s and all I asked for was gift cards I was fine getting it.
    (Next year I may change my mind, as the person I gifted asked for booze. A bottle of 1800 Silver is a damned nice gift, if I do say so myself.)

    • NotEd says:

      To be fair my parents usually give my wife and I an Amex gift card for the holidays, because the get offered a special deal of some kind every year as Amex card holders, I assume.
      This year the offer never came, so they gave us each a check instead.
      Pluses: not having to worry about trying to use an Amex gift card at stores that do not accept it.
      Minus: The checks were not for the same amount, which can lead to a little tension ’round the house. ;)

  10. ChuckECheese says:

    I rolled my Starbucks gift card into my already burgeoning SB card balance, which I never use. I would try to sell the $80+ credit on Craigslist or something, but traded for cash they go for less than food stamps.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Really? Try posting it on Craig’s List or something…even a 5-10% discount should make it worth it to most SB regulars. I know I would love to get even 5% off, since I just gave my wife a SB gift card (we stop there ~ 1x a week, usually at her request).

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Last year I tried to sell my $50 for $35, and there were no takers. I reposted and got flagged for spamming.

    • Johnny Longtorso says:

      plasticjungle.com. I’ve only used it once (to get rid of a Walmart card), but it’s a guaranteed way to get rid of unwanted gift cards in exchange for something useful (or even cash).

  11. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    I find that if I get cash, it goes into my wallet and becomes indistinguishable from my regular funds. If I have a gift card, I’m more likely to use it to pay for a treat for myself, and will probably save it for that when paying for gas, groceries, etc.

    • akiri423 says:

      I’m with this. The cash we got went towards groceries; the Best Buy giftcard got hubby a copy of Fallout 3.

  12. Jubes says:

    I only received one this year. My brother gave me a $50 gift card to a grocery store. I figured he must’ve gotten it from his work because he’s never bought me anything before. I was right, but it was nice to only spend $20 of my money on groceries right before Christmas.

    My boyfriend and I did get a groupon for a terrible Mexican restaurant from his mom. One that I know we have said that we don’t like, once even when we were there in the summer with her lol. Somehow a while after he got it he worked into the conversation how there aren’t any good Mexican restaurants in our area. Turns out she had bought two groupons, one for her and her husband and figured we might like the other. We just gave it to her so they’ll go there twice this year. A little awkward but at least she’s not wasting it this way.

  13. TooManyHobbies says:

    Thankfully, in our family we’re thoughtful enough to give cash instead of those wretched things.

  14. Straspey says:

    My wife received a gift card from one of her bosses for a major retailer this year – only to remember that she had never used the one she got last year for the same retailer in the same dollar amount.

    The gift cards from this store do not expire (we checked), so now she has twice as much to spend and can wait patiently until she sees something which she really would like to have.

  15. Aennan says:

    I could argue that there are occasions where gift cards are a most sincere gift.

    For example, a lady is out of work, looking desperately, and not having any luck. This person won’t be spending money at 5 Guys or Bath and Body Works (some of her favorites) because it’s a waste while she’s unemployed. Gift cards are perfect in that situation. She gets to shop without worry or guilt and enjoy the purchase.

    Or, the family I know that is always running low on food (and the mother works 3 jobs). They never accept food from other people (“that should go to the food bank”) and definitely not money. However, a food-only grocery store gift card as a Christmas present really helps out the mom and kids (without the dad spending it on other items because he can’t).

    Also – I received a Kindle for Christmas. An Amazon gift cert was a great partner to that gift.

    Gift cards are like anything other gift. A crappy gift is the same if it’s a plastic grape display or a gift card. A great gift card gift is the same as another great present.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Good point, though your selections for “favorite things” made me laugh. Five Guys and Bath and Body Works? Haha.

      • Aennan says:

        Not my selections – hers.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Isn’t it silly how people like different things? Ha ha ha!

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I didn’t mean it to be sarcastic, I was saying that it was funny how a fast food joint and scented body lotions were the two things selected. There’s usually a logical progression to how people list their favorites because one thing tends to remind a person of another, and so on – it just seemed to me like if Five Guys and Bath and Body Works were to be on the list of favorites, they wouldn’t be next to each other.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Also – I received a Kindle for Christmas. An Amazon gift cert was a great partner to that gift.

      My bf got one too. That’s a good idea for something to get him for his birthday, an Amazon cert he can use to download books. He’s all “I’m not going to buy any more physical books now!” Which is okay, because I have more than enough for both of us. :P

  16. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I only got one gift card this year, and it’s just a Visa branded one so I can use it for whatever. I’m trying to make sure that I actually buy myself a gift with it this year, because in years past it just got sucked into bills or something and I didn’t actually get a gift at all. This happens moreso with checks or cash.

    I like gift cards, especially if they come with the promise of a shopping trip since I can’t drive myself places. The worst gift card I got was a few years ago for Victoria’s Secret. In order to use it online they required you to use your credit card to complete the order, and if they were sure your gift card had money on it, they would credit your card back for the order. I just thought this was sleezy and wrong, and hopefully they have changed this policy. It makes it hard to do something nice for someone if you know they can’t afford things like that in the first place. At the time I was still living with my mom and the card was for $100, and I didn’t have any credit cards in my own name yet.

    • coren says:

      Watch out for the fees on that one, Visa doesn’t respect any state laws about inactivity fees or expiration dates or whatnot. Especially on ones where it doesn’t say gift card on the front

  17. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    My sister ivariably buys me a gift card from Half Price Books. I appreciate this quite a bit for two reasons – 1, she won’t end up buying a book I don’t want or already own and 2, she cares enough to notice which store I shop at regularly.
    The other gift cards I got were for Target, and those came as a promotion for donating blood – those will go into buying a birthday present for my nephew.

    • coren says:

      Yep, I told people this year that trying to keep up with what I currently have is futile. Trying to get me to stop buying books more so. Just get me gift cards to bookstores and everyone wins. HPB is my favorite because I’ll just go to a clearance sale and fill up a canvas bag full of books for the 25 bucks they gave me this year.

  18. Erika'sPowerMinute says:

    My hubby got $50 in GCs from his employer shortly before Christmas and we used them to finish off our shopping for our kids.

    Speaking of whom–they each got a $5 Target card from my aunt, and I got $15, so I think we’re going to pool them and buy $35 worth of art/craft supplies to keep them out of my hair until school starts again.

    Exciting stuff, in the PowerMinute household.

  19. yzerman says:

    spent it on my daughter to buy her a replacment leapster 2

  20. Alvis says:

    I need more gift cards for my Pick Punch.

  21. Grogey says:

    Some people sell them for cheaper then there valued. Found a site that lets you do it.

  22. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    I pretty much have trained my family that the only good gift card for me is an Amazon card. I can immediately punch in the numbers and put the card in my account, and I shop there all the time (I am a Prime member). I look at many gift cards as “the gift of an errand” in that I have to actually make a special trip to use them.

    I put three Amazon gift cards together this year, and bought a new waterski (the Big Daddy, a ski for fat guys, as my son puts it). Thanks family!

  23. Aeirlys says:

    I got a few gift cards for Starbucks or local restaurants. I enjoy Starbucks and dinners out but feel like they’re not a justifiable expense most of the time, so having a few gift cards is always a treat. I use an Amazon Wish LIst to try to minimize the random gift cards from relatives at the holidays.

  24. Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

    My mother-in-law gave me a $50 grocery store coupon, along with a tub of groceries. It’s a nice thought, even though she seems to think I use wayyyy more fabric softener than I actually do. I’m planning on asking her to go grocery shopping with me this week. She also gave me a $50 Michael’s coupon, which I can use to buy yarn for some larger projects that I wouldn’t normally spend money for. Any other stores’ cards would probably be wasted on me.

    • dolemite says:

      My uncle works for Glad, and he always gets each family a huge trashbag full of Glad products. Freezer bags, about 500 trashbags, sandwhich bags, etc. It’s really nice. I’d estimate there are at least $50-$60 of retail value in each sack.

      • outshined says:

        That’s kind of hilarious (as well as useful). Does Padma Lakshmi jump out of one of the plastic containers as a bonus?

  25. veritybrown says:

    Brother-in-law’s family gave us an Applebee’s gift card. Problem is, we don’t live anywhere near an Applebee’s. At least they gave the kids Walmart gift cards.

  26. VOIDMunashii says:

    I would rather get a gift card than a crappy gift. If someone is unsure what exactly to get me then a gift card to somewhere they know I frequent is ideal.

  27. Rose says:

    I got three blenders (including one of those new Ninja blenders) that I promptly turned into gift cards. I’m now the proud and happy owner of a new coffee maker, a tank of gas, and two boxes of K’Nex for my son’s birthday next month. Made me happy. :)

  28. MurderGirl says:

    My dad insists on giving me iTunes cards when I said I’d prefer Amazon or B&N.

  29. coren says:

    I got gift cards, but I spell out exactly where to get them from (plus people know me well enough to know I buy exactly three things – computer parts, books and food, so it’s newegg, bookstores, and whatever food places are near work) so there aren’t any surprises. I’ll burn through the 85 bucks or so I got by end of January.

  30. momtimestwo says:

    We actually got cash this year. My husband and I about $500, each of the kids got $120, all from relatives. I put the kids money in their savings account (they are both under 9) and I bought a Kindle and Fitbit.

  31. MaloMonster says:

    I asked for and received nothing but giftcards for this Christmas. I told everyone I wanted a cookware set, but it was entirely too expensive for one person to get. I just bought my set the Monday after Christmas!

  32. Charmander says:

    As long as it’s a store I frequently shop at, I LOVE gift cards. Costco, Kroger, Macys, Target – I can always use those.

    The only gift card I’ve ever gotten for a store I don’t shop at was one for Bath & Body Works. I ended up looking for quite a while and finally redeeming it for some soap and lotion that didn’t have too strong a scent. I wouldn’t have bought the stuff in the first place, but since it was free, I couldn’t complain.

  33. Kestris says:

    I’m planning to ‘regift’ the one giftcard I received from the BiL and SiL. Why? Because I don’t shop at Gamestop and have no idea why they thought that a giftcard from there would be a great gift for me.

  34. teke367 says:

    I am not a big fan of the Visa or Amex Cards, especially if you have to pay more money than it’s actually worth (TD Bank doesn’t charge for them, so that helps). And if I get them, I try to use them as fast as possible, and for something larger than the value of the card because I hate having a card with $1.83 on it. And it doesn’t even have the same “it forces somebody to buy something they’d like instead of something they need (one of the few pros in the “card vs cash” argument)

    But store cards are a different matter sometimes. Generally, I’m anti-card. But this year, my mother as for Barnes and Nobles cards, because she has a Nook, and it was the easiest way to buy her a “book” for it. Sure, cash would have worked, but its an extra step. This way, she could apply the card to her nook account, and be done with it. Situations like that, I see why the card is a good idea. But if I know the person was going to store itself, than I’d just give them money if I couldn’t get them a real gift.

  35. reishka says:

    I got a Target gift card from my secret santa this year — and already spent it. I got me & my husband a down feathertop. :) Something I’ve wanted for awhile, but wouldn’t go out and spend the money on because it’s not really a necessity.

  36. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I love gift cards to Barnes and Noble and my family gave me two this year. It’s about $50 of FREE SHOPPING! In one of my favorite stores! Woo hoo!

  37. Johnny Longtorso says:

    I got a couple Target gift cards which will probably get used to buy boring stuff like cleaning supplies, clothes, or whatever.

  38. Splendid says:

    i used my $15 Jamba Juice gift card to buy… wait for it… a Jamba Juice.

    two more to go.

  39. GeekChicCanuck says:

    I rarely get gift cards – but that’s all my husband and I got for our wedding. It was awesome – no need to create a registry, no carting presents across the continent (just got them delivered when we were ready) and we could get exactly what we needed. So – I’m fine with them.

  40. alulim says:

    Does anyone know a really good site to exchange giftcards for cash or other gift cards?

  41. jesusofcool says:

    I got a few. I prefer to get gift cards or cash from the few relatives I have who I don’t know very well. Really I don’t expect anything from them since we aren’t close, but if they’re going to give me something I’d rather that than they try to guess what I might like and pick something awful.
    I find the useful and better than cash in some ways if they’re for stores I shop at regularly like CVS or Target because I’ll use them for splurges or see it, buy it purchases (which I would pretty much never do otherwise). Keeps me from putting off purchasing little things I’d like and would find useful but don’t immediately need.

  42. cara says:

    $40 for iTunes = music, some iTouch games and probably some TV shows.
    $25 for Target = immediately went towards Prince of Persia and Need for Speed Pro Street (to tide me over until SOME STORE near me gets Forza Motorsport 3)
    $50 for GAP = whatever I like. I can essentially get $100 for $50 of new items since I’m an employee there.
    $50 debit card = …still deciding.

  43. JustSayItsResearch says:

    I received $150 to Target and I plan on buying the normal day-to-day stuff I’d usually buy there and spend the money I’m saving on the extra stuff I really need… like a good haircut.