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GIFT CARDS, HOW TO: Play Your Gift Cards Right – Tips for your one-stop shop

A subtle stigma once surrounded the lowly gift card—some considered it a “lazy” gift, requiring little forethought. This attitude has been shifting consistently over the last decade as the popularity of online shopping continues to grow. Today, gift cards are one of Canadians’ most requested gifts, with anincreasing number of tech-savvy consumers even favouring the purely digital forms. Here, we review some tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your purchase.


Skip the Holiday Hustle

When it comes to gift cards, the benefits to the giver are obvious—just ask anyone who’s ever scoured through a hectic holiday shopping mall for hours, unable to find the perfect present for a hard-to-buy-for friend. But there are plenty of benefits for recipients, as well. Gift cards allow people to purchase exactly what they want, saving them the hassle of keeping gift receipts and returning duplicate or unwanted presents to the store. Research on shopping trends also indicates that many consumers who use gift cards spend up to double the value of the card at because it provides them an opportunity to splurge on something special that they would likely not have purchased otherwise. With more and more cards available for online use, there’s also the convenience of shopping from home; simply enter the card code at checkout, and wait for the goods to be delivered.


Make It Personal

A little creativity can add a special personal touch to the standard gift card experience. Most established businesses offer some form of card, so instead of opting for the generalized, all-inclusive Visa, first consider your recipient. How do they spend their time? What might they want to learn? Foodies may love exploring new restaurants or participating in cooking classes. Give your creative friend with a card to a craft supply store or entry to an art museum. There are cards to suit bookworms and techies and sports enthusiasts. They can often be redeemed for classes or activities, like snowboarding lessons or tickets to the movies. Still not sure? Consider where they are in life. Are they a struggling university student? Give them a card to the local supermarket. Did they just buy their first house? Home outfitting stores are where it’s at. Do they have children? Buy them a card to use towards house-cleaning services, meal assembly and delivery programs, or a date night out (bonus points if you offer to babysit!). Then, think about delivery. Handmade envelopes and gift boxes, candy-filled Mason jars, stuffed animals, decorated picture frames…there are hundreds of unique ways to customize your gift.


Discounted Dealings

Once a gift card is purchased, it cannot be returned to the business for cash. For this reason, people sometimes try to sell their unwanted gift cards at a lower price online. A fifty-dollar card might be sold for as low as thirty-five; the discount offers an incentive to buyers who would otherwise purchase the cards at full price from a certified source. This type of transaction can certainly help you save money, but it does require caution. To avoid getting scammed by unscrupulous sellers posing as innocent re-gifters, only buy discounted gift cards from verified sites. Dedicated websites like and offer more security than personal sales sites like Craigslist or Kijiji. Always check the companies’ policies—look for websites that guarantee their gift cards after purchase and provide refunds for unused cards. Read through customer feedback, and only use sellers with high approval ratings. Add an extra measure of security by purchasing all discounted gift cards with a credit card. The insurance will keep you covered in the case of a fraudulent transaction.


Buyer Beware

When buying gift cards in person, it’s generally better to get them from customer service agents instead of public sales racks that are accessed by many shoppers. Examine cards for signs of tampering, making sure the hidden activation code on the back has not been exposed in any way. When buying cards online, purchase them directly from a store’s official website; it will usually offer increased security measures.

Before you buy, read the fine print. Some cards have activation fees that need to be paid upon purchase. In Alberta, gift cards with a specific monetary value are considered to be like cash; they cannot be taxed or given an expiry date. Gift certificates that are redeemed for a service without an established dollar amount (e.g. “good for one manicure”) are not subject to these regulations. Always determine if there is an expiry date or any additional conditions ahead of time. It’s also important to buy only from reputable, long-standing businesses—consumers who purchase gift cards from small companies that go out of business can do little to recover their losses. Lastly, never use random websites that claim to verify the balance leftover on your card. Call the number printed on the back and speak to an agent in person.


Give & Give Again

For a different take on the all-purpose present, consider a subscription. This latest trend is the gift that keeps on giving, and the possibilities for it go far beyond the standard monthly magazine. One option is the online membership, where recipients can access different types of classes, movie sites, or book and podcast libraries, often on an unlimited basis, for a specified time period. Also popular is the subscription box club, where members receive a unique gift delivered to their door once a month. There are sock clubs, fragrance clubs—even snack clubs. Some are for lovers of coffee, spices, bourbon or tea. There are specialized boxes to suit

any interest starting at just a handful of dollars per month. Just make sure to always double-check pricing; some luxury subscription box providers advertise a monthly price instead of a yearly one, and costs can add up quickly if you’re not paying attention.  t8n


Simplified Shopping

Go online to get dozens of unique subscription box ideas for the loved ones in your life. categorizes subscriptions based on interests to simplify the selection process. Find great options for kids, parents, pet lovers, sports nuts, artists, foodies, beauty queens…just try to resist subscribing to them yourself!


Did You Know?

An estimated 1 billion dollars in gift cards goes unused every year. You can donate full or partially used gift cards to charitable organizations that match them with individual needs. Even minute amounts add up enough to make a difference, and many charities will provide a tax receipt for the value of the card.

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