Several new gift cards available this holiday season are good at many stores (without an activation fee!). Saving you money and giving recipients more choices!
New Gift Card this Holiday Season
Have you ever gotten a gift card that you didn’t want? Perhaps you received a gift card to a restaurant that you don’t like or to a store that’s not conveniently located near you. When that happens, what do you do? Well, you can sell the gift card, hold onto it (hoping you will find a way to use it later) or think of something else to do with unwanted gift card so that it doesn’t go to waste. Well, good news! There’s a new gift card in town that gives recipients more choices!
This holiday season, Blackhawk Network released a new series of “multi-store gift cards.” Multi-store gift cards are usable at multiple merchants within a category such as dining, clothing or entertainment. Some category cards are also based on age groups or interests. For example, there’s a “Dining Out Gift Card” that is usable at several different restaurants. The “Teens Choice Gift Card” is usable at a selection of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues that teenagers generally like. And the “Happy Bites” gift cards feature nationwide restaurants as well as popular regional restaurants. Isn’t that fun?
I’ll explain each card in detail below, but you can also learn more on the Choice Cards website.
There are many benefits to category gift cards as well as a few things that are helpful to know. Below is a list of top category gift cards plus everything you need to know about my top choice of new gift cards to try this holiday season:
Multi-Store Gift Cards: Usable at Many Merchants
The great thing about a multi-store gift cards is that the recipient gets to decide where to redeem the card (within a range of choices), but the giver doesn’t have to pay an extra fee for the added flexibility. When you buy a Visa gift card or a Mastercard® gift card, for example, you have to pay an activation fee for the ability to use the gift card pretty much anywhere you want–online, in stores and over the phone anywhere that Visa and Mastercard are accepted. But multi-store gift cards are different.
Multi-store gift cards are developed by partnering with participating merchants, so these cards cannot be used everywhere (like a Visa or Mastercard), but there will be several restaurants or retailers to choose from. So when you receive a multi-store gift card, you have the option to use it at any of the merchants listed on the card, or in some cases, the merchants listed on a website affiliated with the card. Here are some of the best category gift cards I have found:
1. Happy Card Gift Cards
Happy Cards are a collection of gift cards usable at a curated list of stores and restaurants. The list of merchants included on this fun category card range from brands that students enjoy to a selection of fast-casual restaurants and more.
What You Need to Know about Happy Card Gift Cards:
In some cases, these gift cards must be used in stores. They are not programmed to work online. You can, however, use the gift cards at multiple stores on the card. For example, if you have a $50 gift card, you might use $20 at Jamba and the remaining money at one (or more) of the other stores listed on the Happy Card. This is a great option for giving someone a selection of places to visit without locking in on one particular brand.
In 2020, a newer version of this card hit the stores that is “swappable” for online use. The recipient receives the Happy egift card, then uses it to redeem the gift card for egifts to any of the stores listed on the card. You can use it at one store, break it up into a few or use it at all stores–whatever the gift card balance allows. When you receive the egifts selected, you can use those gift cards in stores and online. I really like the flexibility of the Happy Cards.
BUY IT HERE: Happy Card Gift Cards
2. Holiday Favorites Gift Cards
Holiday Favorites gift cards are usable at any of the stores and restaurants listed on the card. I think this multi-store gift card has a great selection. I recently let a teen friend of mind pick a multi-store gift card from all that are available and this is the one she wanted. She especially liked that she could use the card a both Ulta and lululemon. With so many options, though, it is hard to choose!
What You Need to Know about Holiday Favorites Gift Cards:
All of the Holiday Favorites gift cards are actually egift cards. Even though you can buy the “card” itself at the grocery store, there is no plastic gift card in the holder. Instead, the recipient is directed to the website (redeem.giftcards.com) to swap the card for the brand or brands they want to shop. The fun thing about multi-store gift cards is that you can redeem the gift card at more than one store if the balance allows or you can put all of the value into a single store. When the egift cards are selected, they come straight to your email and are also presented as part of activation. You’ll be ready to shop with just a couple of clicks.
BUY IT HERE: Holiday Favorites Gift Cards
3. Giving Good Gift Cards
Giving Good gift cards are similar to the other multi-store gift cards listed above, except that money is donated to the charity listed on the card when this gift card is purchased.
What You Need to Know about Giving Good Gift Cards:
As mentioned above, when you purchase a Giving Good gift card, 3% of the load value is donated to the charity listed on the card. The charities currently supported are Wounded Warrior Project, Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, Make-A-Wish or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
What I like about this card is that the recipient gets flexibility in where they shop, you don’t have to pay extra for the card, there are no fees or expiration dates AND money goes to a charity. This is a great way to do more with your gifting dollars this holiday season.
BUY IT HERE: Giving Good Gift Cards
4. The Choice Card Gift Cards
For the more discerning shopper, The Choice Gift Card is redeemable at a few stores and restaurants with a higher price point than the other brands on the multi-store gift cards previously mentioned. This is a great choice for someone who shops high fashion, likes a great meal, or is interested in high quality gear. Aren’t we all?
What You Need to Know about Giving Good Gift Cards:
These gift cards work like the other multi-store gift cards listed above. The recipient either gets a physical gift card or an egift card. From there, they go to redeem.giftcards.com to swap The Choice Card for egifts to any of the stores and restaurants available. If they want to redeem the gift card entirely for an egift to Nordstrom Rack, they can do that. If they want to spend a little on an REI egift card and a little at Ulta, they can do that too–as long as the card balance can cover the selection. Once the egift is selected, it will arrive quickly via an email and also presented onscreen to print, if desired.
BUY IT HERE: The Choice Card
5. Spafinder Gift Cards
Spafinder gift cards aren’t all that new, but they work similarly to these other category cards. Spafinder gift cards are usable at hundreds of salons, spas and wellness places throughout the United States including nationwide chains as well as small one-location salons.
If you have a favorite place for pampering or want to explore new options in your area, check out this list to find out where Spafinder gift cards are accepted.
What You Need to Know about Spafinder Gift Cards:
Spafinder’s new multi-use card can be used at more than one location so you can get your hair done at one salon and your toes done at another–assuming there is enough money on the card for both. Spafinder gift cards are available in both traditional plastic gift cards as well as egift cards for fast and convenient gifting.
BUY IT HERE: Spafinder gift cards
6. Go Play Golf Gift Cards
If you have a golfer on your holiday gift list, then I have a great option for you in the golf category. The Go Play Golf gift card is redeemable at hundreds of golf courses across the country for green fees, lessons and merchandise. With the current decline in national sporting goods stores and the challenge of driving out to individual golf courses to buy gift cards, I think this category card is the most convenient way to treat golfers to the game (and merchandise) they love most.
What You Need to Know about Go Play Golf Gift Cards:
To redeem a Go Play Golf gift card, you first select a course you want to play on from the list of available golf courses. Then you redeem the gift card at Go Play Golf. The company will then contact the course, set up your tee-time and pay for the green fees. You are not able to redeem the gift card directly at a course. Learn more about Go Play Golf.
BUY IT HERE: Buy Go Play Golf gift cards
Main Reason I Like Category Gift Cards
Category gift cards are a new favorite obsession of mine. I love the convenience they offer to recipients and the fact that givers don’t have to pay extra to give someone the increased flexibility. I also think these cards will help consumers from tossing unused gift cards into the gift card graveyard whenever a stores closes or files for bankruptcy–leaving gift card holders without a place to redeem their cards. With the new category cards and the Visa Everywhere cards, if one store closes, the gift card is still usable at several others.
I’ll be updating this post with new category gift cards I find. If you find others, be sure to let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend).
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend