Gift cards are a double-edged sword.
On the bright and shiny side, they’re an easy gift to give and the recipient can get exactly what they want.
On the sharp and potentially dangerous side, over 22% of gift cards given haven’t been used in a year and most of those will never get used. (Anyone else still have a Toys R’ Us gift card besides me?)
Unused gift cards, those that just sit in our wallets and junk drawers, were likely given with the best intentions. Unfortunately, when a gift card is not redeemed, it’s the equivalent of you gifting money---to the merchant.
Let that sink in...
Assume a friend gives you a $25 Starbucks gift card as a thank you for helping them. You tuck the gift card away and forget to use it. Essentially, that’s the same as your friend giving $25 TO Starbucks just for the heck of it.
Obviously, when you give a gift card, you WANT the person to use it and derive pleasure from it.
There's a guaranteed way to help ensure the recipient uses the gift card and derives pleasure from it?
Make the gift card more memorable!
With just a bit of effort, you can make that gift card a lot more memorable.
Memorable gifts create joy AND have the opportunity to connect giver and receiver more deeply. In the case of gift cards, giving one with a bit of personality also increases the likelihood it gets used.
1. Select a gift card to store or website they’ll love
Nowadays, there are gift cards for everything from stores to restaurants to island resorts and pretty much everything in between.
Remember to pick a gift card that matches the recipient’s taste, not yours.
Giving a gift card that doesn’t fit with the recipient’s interests runs the risk of being seen as a thoughtless gift instead of a thoughtful gesture.
2. Tell the recipient WHY you selected that particular gift card
When giving the gift card, include a brief note that explains WHY you chose that particular gift card out of all the possible choices.
The reason for your selection may seem obvious to you, but there’s a chance it’s not clear to the recipient.
🥳 If you’re stumped for what to say, just follow this script:
I selected it because I know you like ______ and I thought it might be fun for you pick out a new __________.
3. Highlight something the recipient might enjoy using the gift card for.
When you go to the movies, there’s a reason you have to sit through 20 minutes of previews. The movie studios and the theatre are hoping you’ll see a movie trailer and say, “Yes! I gotta see that film.”
In a similar way, you can help build the anticipation of what the gift card may be used for by planting a few seeds.
This is easy to do AND impactful—whether for someone you don’t know particularly well (like your child’s teacher) or when you have absolutely no clue what to get a loved one (that teenaged nephew who loves gaming, but you can’t remember if it’s Fortnite or World of Warcraft.)
Some easy examples:
🥳 If you’re giving a gift card to a restaurant, include a menu and circle a dish the recipient might enjoy or even comment on one you’ve heard great reviews about. “The Times article said the Chicken Marsala is fabulous.”
(Most restaurant menus can be found online these days. Just print one out---or you can even use it as wrapping paper for the gift card!)
🥳 If you don’t know what toys your niece/nephew/cousin’s child is hoping for, a gift card to a toy store can work well. Just print out a picture of a toy you think they might like and let them know they can now get that toy, or another one of their choosing.
🥳 If you find yourself in the situation where you have no idea what the kid might like, you can share a toy or game that you enjoyed as a child.
For instance, you could print out a picture of a Scrabble game and include a note similar to this one:
“Your mom and I used to play Scrabble every Sunday night with Grammy and Grandpa. I thought you might enjoy doing so too.
In case you already have the game, or if there's another item you’ve been wanting, here’s a gift card so you can get exactly what you want.
Have an awesome birthday!
Ask your mom who usually won our Scrabble games!
Not only do these comments create excitement for what the gift card may be redeemed for, the shared information creates a much closer connection.
4. Select a gift card that reflects a shared interest
The only thing better than selecting a gift card you know the person will enjoy is choosing one that reflects a shared interest between you.
🥳 If you and a friend both love to read, a gift card to Barnes and Noble or Amazon would be a great choice.
You could wrap the gift card up with a bookmark and a note that says,
“Let me know what book you select! You know I’m always looking for my next great read!”
5. Select a gift card that delivers a compliment
If you’re unsure what gift card to select for someone, think about something you admire about the person and use that as inspiration. After all, who doesn’t love a compliment?!
🥳 For the friend who always looks so put together, a gift card to Sephora or Ulta so she can add some goodies to her make-up bag would be a great choice.
🥳 For the very fit co-worker who always finds time to exercise, a gift card to a sporting goods or athletic wear store would hit the mark.
When giving the gift card, don’t forget to include the compliment on a note or card. I promise they’ll smile when they think about it AND when they redeem the gift card.
6. Give a gift card that can solve an existing problem for the recipient.
Receiving something we want is wonderful.
Receiving something we need might be even better.
I learned this lesson several years ago when I went to visit my mom. Late one afternoon, I noticed she was sitting at the kitchen table—in the dark.
When I asked why, she told me that she didn’t want to turn on the lights, because it would use up the light bulbs.
My mother continued, "If the light bulbs burned out, I can't change them."
Deep sigh. Aging is not for sissies.
I made a mental note to gift my mother a monthly handyman service to handle the household chores that she could no longer do herself.
She never would have asked for one, but knowing that she can turn on the kitchen lights again will definitely make her day (more likely, her evening!) easier.
🥳 The next time you’re searching for a gift for someone, think about something they’ve complained about. The solution to that complaint might just be the perfect gift.
7. Make a bigger impact by wrapping the gift card in a creative, interesting way.
I have a confession to make.
Simply putting a gift card into an envelope, or even into a greeting card, and then gifting it seems less than personal.
I always encourage people to wrap up the gift card in a fun and meaningful way. It will make for a more interesting presentation, plus the gift is more likely to be remembered.
If you're unsure what to use, I'm always a fan of gifts that put the fun in functional. Here are some ideas to put this into action:
🥳 Gift card to a kitchen store:
Attach the gift card to a spatula and tie it with a bow.
🥳 Gift card to the hardware store:
Place the gift card in a small box. Spell out the person’s name in washers glued to the top of the box.
🥳 Gift card to Target or Walmart:
Place the gift card in the center of a roll of toilet paper with a note, “I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but I figured you could always get something you needed.”
🥳 Gift card to a clothing store:
Wrap the gift card in a pair of socks.
Gift cards play an important role in the gift giving world. They’re convenient and you don’t have worry about whether or not you got the right size/color/style.
But giving a gift card "as is" is a bit ho-hum and I know you're not boring!
Spending just a few minutes to transform that ordinary gift card into an extraordinary gift will make for a more enjoyable experience for both of you.
I promise that just a bit of personalization can go a long way!