Gift Cards Are Worse Than Cash

There’s something that I’ve been wondering about for a long time – why do people think gift cards are a great idea?

Buying someone a gift card assumes that the recipient:

  1. still wants something from the shop you bought it from
  2. is willing to travel to the shop
  3. before the gift card expires

You’re basically making your recipient do work for his or her own present – when you could have just given them the gift in the first place. So you say, you don’t know what the recipient wants – why not just give them cash?

Cash is flexible – because it is not tied to a store, it can be spent anywhere and on anything – they don’t have to travel to an inconvenient or faraway location to purchase something. It doesn’t expire, so if the recipient doesn’t want to spend it, he or she can just save it for something else. There is no way a gift card can be better than cash. If a store offers discounts for people buying using gift cards – the recipient can just purchase those gift cards to get what they want since they’ll be going to that store anyway.

Of course, gift cards can be used as jokes – i.e. giving a vegan gift cards to a popular steak restaurant – the recipient will either end up not spending it (wasting your money) or giving it away (which I guess is a good thing, since you gave them a present to gift for free).

I can’t think of a situation where presenting someone with gift cards is better than giving them cash.

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