Christmas Gift Cards – Choosing the Best Gift Card

November 17, 2008 - Always The Right Gift

How many times have you been stumped when trying to buy a gift for a friend or family member? A recent survey by the National Retail Federation found one of the main reasons why people avoid gift cards is that they aren’t sure which ones to buy.

I’ve found that gift cards and gift certificates can actually make this decision pretty easy by putting the power to choose in the hands of the recipient.  The secret when you’re not sure is to go general, not too specific, here are some examples: 

American Express Gift Cards

American Express gift cards used to come with fees that would eat into the amount of money you’re giving away.  They recently removed the monthly fees so the recipient no longer has to worry about the balance depleting until it’s used.  The great thing about the American Express gift cards is that your friend or family member can spend it at any store on any gift that they want – American Express Gift Cards Gift Card

Magazine subscriptions are a nice gift to give because they usually last a whole year, a gift that keeps coming each month is pretty neat.  Of course the challenge can be knowing what they’re most interested in, no one wants to buy a subscription to a magazine their friend or family member won’t like.  That’s where sites like come in. 

Their most popular titles are Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, Cooking Light, Cosmopolitan, Money, Entertainment Weekly, and Southern Living but they have hundreds of other magazines to choose from.  You’re sure to get them something they’re interested in by buying them a gift card.

iTunes Gift Card

Of course this is specific to anyone that has an iPhone or iPod they can use to download music from iTunes. On the other hand, this is a pretty general present for anyone that does own and use an iPod or iPhone.  The variety of music available in iTunes is pretty impressive, they have songs for most every taste so if they’re a music buff with an iPod you can be pretty sure it will be a hit if you buy an iTunes gift card. Gift Card

While the things for sale from may not be the most exciting, they’re certainly gifts that most anyone can use.  They sell medicine, vitamins, hair products, makeup & accessories, diet & fitness, baby stuff, contact lenses, even toys & games.  It’s definitely a “safe” gift, you won’t likely get any jumping for joy when they open a gift certificate to but you can bet they won’t throw or give it away either.  So if you’re looking for a practical gift that you know will be used, get them a gift card.

Benefits of Gift Cards 

Gift cards will be requested as holiday gifts by almost 55% of consumers this year according to the National Retail Federation survey, this is good news for many of us who like to give gift cards as presents.  Why are gift cards so popular? Here are some of the answers given in the survey as to why people buy them:

  • Gift cards allow the recipient to select their own gift
  • Gift cards are easier and faster to buy than traditional gifts
  • Sometimes they carry retailer incentives
  • Easier to ship than traditional gifts
  • Gift cards can help shoppers stick to their budget
  • Recipient won’t have hassle with returns

Personalizing Gift Cards

Of course, some people steer clear of buying gifts cards or gift certificates because they feel it’s not a very personal gift. One of the suggestions they give for making gift cards more personal are to package them with other small items you know a person would like, such as enclosing candy and popcorn with a movie theater gift card. Another method is to buy gift cards from retailers that allow you to design your own cards with personal messages and photos.

Custom Gift Cards

With you can build your own personalized gift card.  It’s a pretty neat way to customize a gift card, making it much more personal.  You upload a photo to the site then resize, crop, or rotate your picture so it fits on the gift card.  Then you position the picture and add a custom message the gift card.  Pretty slick!

So take advantage of the advantages that gift cards offer this year and if you’re looking for some ideas check out the ones below:


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Responses to Christmas Gift Cards – Choosing the Best Gift Card

  • Missy

    Simon Mall gift cards are nothing but a pain. I got one last Christmas and it’s been declined every time I tried to use it. Now I’ve lost $2.50 of the $25 balance because it’s been over 12 months since it was paid for. (But not since I received it, since I didn’t get it right away.) Why the heck can’t people just give cash?!?!? My employer could have saved themselves some money and made it possible for me to actually USE my gift if they had simply added $25 to my paycheck! Here I sit with a card that’s losing value every month while I waste time trying to figure out how to use it!!!

  • Kim Meyers

    Yeah, Simon is good. I like the giftcards website. You can upload a photo onto a gift card- pretty cool. I put a picture of my pug on one and gave it to my parents. They LOL! 🙂

  • Emily

    Another great idea is a Simon Mall gift card…they can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted, like a debit card, and you can keep track of your balance online. Now I ask my family for more specific and practical gift cards, like HEB, CVS, or Target, but when I was younger, I LOVED getting Simon Mall cards because I could use them anywhere I wanted, and it doesn’t have the crazy fees like the prepaid AmEx gift card does.


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