The season of gift-giving is almost upon us! That means it’s another opportunity to wrack your brain and try to find out what Dad really wants. It’s not always Dad, of course, but some folks are harder to buy for each year. Gift cards seem like a great option, but there are perhaps a few drawbacks, too. Weigh both before making a decision.
Pro: Controlled Spending
On the positive side, gift cards are a way to control spending. There’s no justifying five more dollars, because the card only has so much. How many times have you been in the store, and found the perfect gift, but just out of budget? And all the stuff within the budget is just blech. Gift cards allow for a precise figure. Then if the recipient wants to supplement it, they are free to do so at a much smaller cost to themselves.
Pro: Make Your Own Choice
Also positive, gift cards allow the recipient to choose something they truly want. Instead of trying to surreptitiously return those awful shoes, you can jump straight to the real deal. People appreciate that, and it ensures that the person actually desires the thing they are going to receive.
Pro: Don’t Overdo It
From a different, but still positive angle, gift cards provide a way to exchange presents without overdoing it. Your boss, neighbor, or anyone on a semi-close basis, might feel uncomfortable receiving something intimate and special, but a gift card has just the right touch of courtesy. No one frowns at a card that offers free coffee, after all!
Con: Feels Impersonal
On the negative side, gift card can feel impersonal. It is fun anticipation to wonder what each person will give you, and personalized gifts can add a lot to a relationship. A gift card can feel tacked-on, like it was picked up in the grocery store on the way out. So maybe add a handwritten note to cover this base, or attach it to a small, personalized gift.
Con: Useless Small Balances
Perhaps the biggest annoyance with gift cards is the collection of plastic that contains a total of sixty-eight cents in store credit. If the person stays under the balance of the card, they are likely to end up with a useless amount of money that they are too reluctant to throw away because, “You never know!” Even if they have every intention of using them, they are easily forgotten when there’s so little utility left. Get a feel for the location beforehand and be sure to include enough on the card to make it worth the recipients while.
Con: Fees and Conditions
Lastly, and to great headache of us all, some gift cards include fees and conditions. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but different places will place different restrictions on their gift cards. Sometimes the rules are different between online and in person, or the credit can’t be used towards the more popular items. Do a little research and find out ahead of time – maybe it’s best to pass on the card if it’s going to turn into a frustration for the person you are trying to appreciate.