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9 Ways to Make Gift Cards More Personal

Forget what you know about gift cards. Follow this checklist to add a personal touch to the gift cards you give.

lowes gift card in a cute planter

If you’ve been following Gift Card Girlfriend on the Facebook Page for the past nine weeks, you already know what makes gift cards more personal. It’s a combination of things–the delivery, the selection, the timing, the amount and a variety of other factors that influence the experience the gift card receiver will have.

Although I’ve heard criticism that gift cards give the impression that you didn’t take time to hunt for a “real gift,” I think a properly-chosen gift card says just the opposite. The perfect gift card reflects how much you know about the recipient, value her individuality (her style dictates the purchase), respect her time (no standing in line to return a poorly-chosen gift) and want her to treat herself.

Gift Card Checklist

I too used to have doubts when on the giving side of the gift card equation. Not anymore. I now have a checklist I run through every time I give a gift card to be sure the recipient will see the gift as I intend it to be delivered. These are the nine things I check every time.

1. The Image

Whether you make your own gift card from a personal photo or find a gift card at the store with the perfect image on it, the gift card design may be all you need to make gift cards more personal. A gift card with an image of the grand kids, the shoes she loves, Tim McGraw (hello Outback!), or the motorcycle brand he adores (think Harley) are all images that will resonate with the recipient and make the gift card selection feel very intentional.

2. The Text

If you make a custom gift card, you can add custom text like nicknames or key phrases that will speak directly to the recipient. But you can also find great messages on brand name gift cards like DSW’s gift card that says, “Party like a shoe lover.” The message tells the recipient that this gift card has been picked (or made) especially for him.

3. The Words you Write

Even the most practical gift card can feel more personal if you take the time to write a handwritten note. A gift card to the grocery store, even, can feel thoughtful if you write, “You make doing everyday things feel like an adventure.” Gift card to the shoe store? “I’d walk a million miles to be with you.”

4. The Recommendations

Receiving a gift card to a place you’ve never been can feel a bit like taking a risk. But a note that tells you the inside scoop, not only helps you have a better experience in redeeming the gift card but also makes the gift feel purposeful. Add a note about favorite dishes to try when using a restaurant gift card, tell what movie you loved when giving a movie theater gift card, mention the best stylist to ask for when booking with a salon gift card, or tell what days and hours are less crowded for using a bowling gift card.

5. The Knowing

Part of what makes gift cards more personal is just knowing where the recipient likes to shop, eat, and hang out. Giving a gift card to one of those places shows how well you know the person and want him or her to enjoy those favorite activities. Is it a local bagel shop he visits every Tuesday morning? A favorite golf course he plays or would love to play? Or does she really just love something random that no one else would guess…but you just happen to know.

6. The Location

Gift Cards are supposed to be convenient for the giver and for the receiver. Make sure you know what stores the recipient has access to before picking a card. If you’re not sure, check the 1-800 number on the back of the gift card or look at a store’s website for location options.
If you’re not sure how convenient a gift card will be for the recipient, try these alternatives:

  • Select a gift card that can be redeemed online such as an gift card.
  • Get a gift card that can be used anywhere such as a Visa® gift card.
  • Get a local gift card for the recipient. At, we sell gift cards that are redeemable at local shops all over the country.

7. The Timing

Plastic gift cards can be delivered like any other gift–hopefully on time. But egift cards should be delivered on or before the recipient’s special day. Since virtual gifts can be delivered instantaneously, sending one late is like confessing you forgot.

8. The Delivery

Rather than deliver a gift card in an envelope, add a little something to make the gift feel more personal. That “little something” can be as simple as homemade bookmarks with a gift card to the bookstore or a candle to go with a gift card to the spa. Adding something to the gift card gives the recipient something to “open” and enjoy in the moment.

9. The Play on Words

Spend two minutes on Pinterest and you’ll find all sorts of gifts, tags, and free printables that are a play on words. The simple pun tells the recipient that you put this gift together for a reason and that you carefully selected the gift card that goes with it.
Here are a few examples:

“You Rock!” with an iTunes gift card.

“Apple(bee’s) for Teacher” with an Applebee’s gift card.

“Congrats Smarty Pants!” with a gift card to pants at Old Navy.

“Working with you is a Piece of Cake” with a gift card to The Cheesecake Factory.

See that? A simple pun and suddenly this gift card feels personal and purposeful.

It’s so Easy to Make Gift Cards Personal

The truth is, I love to receive gift cards no matter how they are delivered to me. So you’d think I could give one without worrying how the recipient interprets the gift, but I can’t. I always go through this checklist to be sure I give the right dollar amount, deliver a gift card that can be used conveniently, and package the gift card so it shows I put effort into turning the gift card into a gift. I hope you do the same.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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