For most people, when they hear the term gift card, they picture the end cap of an aisle at their local grocery store that hangs cards for a lot of national merchants. But these are not the only types of cards that are available for purchase. There are multiple types you can purchase; you just have to know what you are looking for. I will explain to you 3 different types and what to look for.
The term open loop is a direct correlation to where the gift card can be used. When you purchase a card, like the ones from GiftCards.com, you have the option to choose which network you want. An example would be Visa® or MasterCard®. For these types, you can use the card wherever that network is accepted. These are best for the person that likes to shop at multiple locations. An easy way to know that a card is an open loop is if they have the network’s logo on the front.
For a semi-closed loop card, they are closed loop by nature but at a wider variety of merchants. At our sister company WRL.com, we offer a product called SelectSpend cards. These cards are not open to the entire network but are not also restricted to a single merchant. Each merchant is assigned a Merchant Category Code (MCC) similar to a category of automobile. An example MCC code is Fuel Dispensers. So, this card would be accepted only at each merchant that is classified under this category, such as GetGo, Sheetz, & BP. This type of gift card allows for flexibility with where the cardholder can use the card but limiting their transactions to ensure that they are purchasing the good and services designed for their reward.
A closed loop is a type of card that can only be used a certain locations. When you walk by the aisle at your neighborhood grocery store, you will notice a lot of gift cards for different locations; Pizza Hut, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc. For these, you can only use the gift card at that merchant, no matter how many locations they have. So, if you were to purchase one for Lowes, you can only purchase goods and services at all Lowes locations only. These are the most popular gift cards at the holidays and are perfect for the person that has their favorite shopping locations. The easiest way to know what you are purchasing is a closed loop card is the network’s (Visa, MC, Discover) logo is not on the card at all.
Along with purchasing, there are also places that will purchase any unwanted cards that you have. A lot of times, you will get that gift card from your grandmother that you will never use. Places like Swapagift.com or plasticjungle.com will purchase these cards from you at a discounted rate. This is a quick way to take that 100 dollar card that you were never going to use and turn it into cold, hard cash! Again purchasers and spenders should be cognizant of the type of gift cards out there and from everybody at GiftCards.com, happy shopping!
~~ John Lint, former employee at GiftCards.com