Gift cards: pros and pros

Gift cards divide opinion.


People say they are a last resort. No! a last resort is a crumpled £10 note in a windowed business envelope or flowers stolen from a graveyard.

People say that they are thoughtless. No! If your friend has been wanting to try out new make up but hasn't been able to justify the spend, then a voucher for MAC is thoughtful.

People say that money is better than a voucher because a voucher limits you to spend it in a specific store. I argue that it can be a liberating experience. Only ever shop in Zara? Well here's a voucher for Liberty. Here's your permission slip to try something new.

I love gift cards and to prove the success of this gift medium, let me tell you a story.

My niece, Imogen, is thirteen and lives in America. We had no idea what to get her for her birthday. She's smart but she's also cool. She can tell you the difference between the Chalcolithic era and the Neolithic but she also dresses better than I do. Yes, it seems you can have it all.

For Christmas we gave her a $50 Amazon gift card.

We thought she might spend it on the One Direction tour DVD or replica Hunger Games jewellery but it was the best $50 we ever spent. Here is her thank you email:

Thank you for the Amazon gift card!  I'll be using it to invest in Amazon stock, and become Gulfstream jet rich, like Warren Buffet. Starting my career as a multi-billionaire at the mere age of 13!

Amazon stock is currently low, so I can buy them at a lower price and come out high.  I predict that they will fly high, as I will in my Gulfstream.

We played monopoly, where I reigned supreme, leading me to believe that this will happen again when I invest. 

Next time you see me I'll let you fly in my Gulfstream, and ride in my Lamborghini.

I haven't altered a word of her email. I was so impressed with her and not just because she's young and hilarious.

There was something impressive about the way she thought: I remember thinking whacky, big, limitless thoughts about my future like Imogen.

I liked being reminded.

Gift card etiquette:

  • Never give a voucher which requires the receiver to spend a certain amount before the voucher takes effect. ‘Get £20 off when you spend £180’
  • Explain why you’ve given a voucher If you’re worried about being accused of thoughtlessness. For example, if you know that they’ve been struggling with money, writing simply ‘This week’s grocery shopping is on me’ or, the even simpler: ‘Treat yo self’.
  • Check when the voucher expires before you buy. Some times a voucher has no expiry date. Others expire after a year.

Gift Card inspiration