Are gift cards thoughtful presents?


Fact Box

  • In 2023, the average value of unused gift cards is $175 per person, increased from 2022’s average of $116. This adds up to about $21 billion for the entire US adult population.
  • In a 2017 survey, 61% of people listed gift cards first as their number one choice in gifts, making it the most popular gift for 11 years straight.
  • In a survey of 1,000 people, 40% reported that they spent about $20-25 on gift cards. While the exact average is undisclosed, the amount spent on a gift card is based on the gifter's income. Based on the given stats, the average amount spent is likely above $25.

Grace (No)

While gift cards are convenient, they convey a lack of personal interest. Gift certificates can even be a setback to the recipient as reload and inactivity fees exist; if unused or overused, the giftee could be charged. Furthermore, losing the gift card can be a major headache, as it is extremely difficult to track it down, especially without the gift card number. 

Additionally, gift cards violate gift etiquette as they clearly state the amount the gifter spent, which can create an uncomfortable situation. Spending too little might make the recipient feel underappreciated, but spending too much might make them feel as if their gifts to you don't hold up. A gift certificate completely removes the element of surprise of a hand-picked gift, making the gift card a rather unthoughtful gift. 

Besides standard niceties, gift cards encourage frivolity and often sit forgotten. Big corporations enjoy gift cards because people often forget about them, giving companies money without ever buying an item. In 2022, this loss was predicted to be over $21 billion. That doesn't mean there is no time or place for gift cards. In fact, gift cards are great for a workplace gift exchange like Secret Santas and White Elephants. This, however, only again emphasizes their impersonal nature. Gift cards are appropriate for professional events and large groups rather than as presents for loved ones. 

While gift cards work well when one is short on time to buy a real present, there are far more thoughtful gifts. If you have the time and budget, consider what a person wants and buy them an item or experience they could really appreciate. Receiving such a gift could produce an excitement in the recipient that gift cards simply remove.  

Elisa (Yes)

Since Blockbuster popularized the gift card in 1994, gift certificates have transformed in many ways. With endless designs and some even make sounds or play music, gift cards can make fun, thoughtful presents that highlight creativity and can always come in handy. When it comes to gift giving, it's the thought that counts—which is true for gift cards. 

While in the past, gift cards may have felt like last-minute gift ideas, these days, they are easy to personalize and are available in nearly any store worldwide. Giving a gift card to someone's favorite store or restaurant reaffirms that they are important to you and that you have been thinking of them

Many people prefer gift cards over other gifts. According to Good Food, purchasing gift cards as gifts is arguably one of the most thoughtful and personal presents there as 'it's saying to that someone that you appreciate them, and you want to gift them something' that would 'give them the freedom to choose.' Just because it's easier getting gift cards for friends over spending hours frantically trying to find a gift the person may not even want or like doesn't make the gift card any less of a present. Not only do gift cards save time for everyone involved, they provide the recipient the freedom to select their own gift.

Gift cards are the ultimate present as they help prevent unwanted gifts, allow people to treat themselves, and allow anyone to give a thoughtful gift even from a distance. Additionally, gift cards are great for the environment as they can be reused and recycled. Gift cards are as thoughtful a gift option as any in our modern world while being safe, fun, and convenient.

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