Quick tips on how to use egift cards in stores and restaurants plus what you need to know about Visa® egift cards.
How eGift Cards Work in Stores
I’ve used mobile gift cards in stores multiple times without incident, but earlier this week, I broke my own rules for using egift cards and found myself unprepared.
When the cashier asked me for payment, I suddenly remembered that I had digital gift cards that I had wanted to use. So I dug through my purse to find my smartphone, which took longer than it should have. Then I blanked on where I had stored the egift cards. I could not remember if I had moved them to a mobile wallet, stored them in a gift card app, had taken screenshots of the digital codes or had planned to just pull up the email at the point of sale.
Feeling pressured by the line of shoppers stacking up behind me, I got flustered and paid for my purchase with a debit card instead of the egift cards I had intended to use. Although using egift cards in stores is easy, the process can certainly be made EASIER if you have egift cards ready to use before you actually need them. Below are my tips on how to use egift cards in stores.
Prepare to Use eGift Cards
Since electronic payment is a fairly new way to check out at the cash register, taking a few steps to get organized before you approach the cashier will help you avoid the mistakes I made.
Below are my tips for using digital gift cards in stores without incident.
1. Store eGift Cards Immediately
Upon receipt, copy egift card information to one, easy-to-access location. While it is great to keep the original notices in whatever form they arrived (email message, text message, etc.), recording the gift code, PIN and expiration date (if applicable) in a single place makes it easy to find your stash of digital gift cards in a hurry and gives you a backup of pertinent information in case you accidentally delete an original notice.
If you are not already using a mobile wallet, then I suggest one of the following:
Mobile Wallet on your Smartphone: I have both an iPhone and a Samsung phone. I’ve stored gift cards in both, but I find the SamsungPay app easier to use. It feels more like an organization tool. Apple Pay works too. I just fumble more when I use that wallet for some reason. Either way, the easiest place to store digital gift cards is on the mobile wallet you already own.
Screenshot I often take a screenshot of the gift codes (and PINS) that I plan to use shortly. I love apps and wallets for getting organized and updating balances, but I can open the photo library on my phone faster than I can get into an app. I also know that I will be able to obtain the card information quickly if the store’s wifi is slow or I have trouble getting a cellular connection on my phone. Having a screenshot is a good backup method too, if nothing else.
eMail Folder If you frequently get digital gift cards via email, then you could put the emails in a folder on your phone to make it easier to find the ones you are looking for when you get to the register. Keep in mind, however, that many egift cards require you to claim a code once you receive it, so the gift card information may not be on the actual email. You will likely have to click a button inside of the email to get to the egift card itself.
Print a Paper Copy If you are not comfortable showing a digital gift card, then you should be able to print the egift card instead. When you print the egift card, make sure to capture the code and PIN to be sure the card will be usable in stores.
2. Keep all eGift Cards in One Place
Because I am always testing out different ways to use egift cards in stores, I often have different egift cards in different places. The confusion in my wallet is what led to my confusion at the cash register. Pick a method that works for you and stick with it. If you do not want to use an app, you could put screenshots of each digital card into a folder on your phone’s home screen or print physical copies of each egift card on your printer at home and put the papers in your real-life wallet. Whatever method you choose, stick with it and use it consistently.
3. Refresh eGift Card Balances
While many mobile wallets and gift card apps have automatic balance update features (which I LOVE), not all merchant cards are connected and sometimes you have to refresh a card manually in order to see if it has been used. When gift cards are completely used, remove them from your wallet. It is easier to stay organized if you are only tracking gift cards with usable dollars left on them.
4. Tell Cashier You are Paying with an eGift Card
Before getting into line, pull up the digital gift card you plan to use. Open your email, open the app, open your mobile wallet or dig through your purse to find the paper copy. If you wait until payment is due, you may find yourself as flustered as I had been. Instead, plan ahead and tell the cashier that you will be paying with an egift card. That way, he or she can prep the cash register if necessary.
You’ll be happy to know that I have since corralled all of my mobile gift cards into one smartphone app, updated the balances and deleted the cards I can no longer use. The next time I need to make a purchase at a store with a digital gift card, I’ll have my phone handy and will get logged into my gift card app before I approach the register to make sure everything is in order. Though egift cards can be used at stores, getting organized ahead of time and having your phone ready before the cashier asks for payment will ensure the best outcome and smoothest transaction possible.
What about Restaurants and Visa eGift Cards?
Visa egift cards are only usable online, over the phone, by mail-order or any place that a physical card is not required. Read this blog post on how to use Visa egift cards online..
Restaurant egift cards are usable in stores, but you will want to read this blog post on how to use egift cards at restaurants. The process is the same, but since you will not likely be standing next to the cash register, there are a few tricks to know ahead of time.
What other questions do you have about egift cards? Have you used an egift card at the store? If so, add a note in the comments below or leave a message for @GCGirlfriend on Twitter.
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend