Five Reasons Gift Cards Are Not Always A Terrible Present

Five Reasons Gift Cards Are Not Always A Terrible Present

Gift cards are often dismissed as an unimaginative and thoughtless gift — but that isn’t always the case. Here are five reasons why they can be a welcome alternative.

Gift vouchers picture from Shutterstock

1. Digital era ownership tracking is difficult

In the physical media era, it was usually possible to work out if a potential recipient owned a given book/movie/CD/game by sneakily checking their shelves. That’s a fair bit more difficult these days, when everyone’s libraries are stored on password-protected digital devices. (Games are easier if they’re multiplayer and online, but books are close to impossible.)

2. Vouchers extend the pleasure of giving

You don’t have to spend a gift card in one sitting — you can shop around and spend a little on multiple visits. That said, if you give a gift voucher, note the expiry date and remind the recipient a month or two beforehand, so they don’t miss out. Once a voucher expires, that’s it. )

3. Less on postage means more for the present

If you’re sending a present to distant locations, the actual physical postage can be high. A gift card pops inside a standard envelope — so what you don’t spend on shipping you can use to increase the value of the voucher. (Or keep the money for yourself — we’re not here to judge.)

4. It shows you respect the recipient’s taste

Yes, there’s something lovely about receiving a gift that shows how well the giver knows you, but there’s also something pleasing about knowing you can get exactly what you want, rather than having to feign enthusiasm.

5. It beats getting underwear

Well, unless you’re Kotaku editor Mark Serrels.

Are you pro- or anti- gift cards? Share your views in the comments.


  • I love this site but those are some weak arguments, tbh.
    Having said that, I am fond of the gift card/voucher over a rushed choice of a present they may not use.
    I think they can still be somewhat personalised by giving a voucher for a particular store (village/jb hifi/anything that relates specifically to their interests) rather than for a shopping centre.
    I and others I know have used Westfield cards for basic things at Coles that I would have bought anyway and while it came in handy, it was hardly a memorable gift.

  • I’ve never (and this article doesn’t help) understood gift cards.
    If you’re going to be (and lets be honest here) that thoughtless that you’re going to give someone a gift card… why not just give them cash?
    Cash fulfils every one of the points above with the added bonus of:
    6. You don’t lock the recipient into using it at one place.
    7. It DOESN’T EXPIRE!!!

    Now I understand that giving cash is often a moral taboo (I certainly never give people cash, and I’m sure I’ve given my fair share of gift cards). But a gift card is literally plastic cash with a restriction and an expiry. Why not give them a $50 prepaid VISA or something instead?

    Of course some gift cards can be “thoughtful”… “I got you this coz I didn’t know which video game you wanted and now you can choose” or whatever… but I don’t see why you can’t be just as thoughtful by saying the same thing (or putting it in a card) but giving them cash =\

    • For me the restriction is the advantage of a gift card. If somebody gives me $50 I’ll stick it in my wallet and the next time I buy groceries or petrol I will just end up using that.

      The restriction prompts consideration. “Here is $50 I have to spend at X, what should I get?”

      • That’s a very good point that I guess I’d never considered. I’m not sure it resolves the “thought” bit of the whole situation though.
        I’ll try to think of things this way though next time I’m on the receiving end.

  • I always give everyone in my family gift cards, I live at the other end of the Country, so it is very difficult to figure what they may want or need, so I get them a giftcard. And they do then same for me, I suggested it to everyone about 5 or so years ago and we all love it. Works for us!

    • Reminds me of a Dilbert comic where they both give each other a $100 for christmas and then agree that next year they will just shake hands instead of swapping $100 between them.

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