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5 Steps to Picking the Perfect Gift Card Every Time

Need to buy a gift card? Gift Card Girlfriend shares her signature tips for picking the best gift card for every gifting situation.

pick a good gift card

Ever find yourself in a quandary at the kiosk, puzzling over which gift card to give, how much money to spend and how best to present the gift? With so many options to choose from, picking the perfect gift card can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Follow these six steps to pick the perfect gift card every time.

1. Stick to Favorites

Pay attention to where the recipient likes to shop, dine, and be entertained, and then buy gift cards accordingly. If your husband likes to buy clothes at Bass Pro Shops, for example, don’t buy him a Nordstrom gift card in hopes he’ll ditch the khakis for the classics. The recipient is more likely to use a gift card at an establishment he or she already frequents.

2. Give a Usable Amount

Recipients should be able to redeem gift cards without pitching in on the purchase. But that doesn’t mean you have to overspend your budget. Pick a gift card that is usable for the recipient while still being within your dollar limit. Only want to spend 20 dollars? Then iTunes, Jamba, or Starbucks are all perfect gift cards for that amount. Stores like Apple, Anne Taylor, and Best Buy would be a stretch. (Your $20 gift card would be more like a coupon than a present). Read more on the best dollar amount to put on a gift card here.

3. Make it Convenient

Gift cards to stores and restaurants that are easy for the recipient to visit are more likely to get used, so the perfect gift card should be redeemable locally or online. If you’re not sure where the card can be redeemed, check locations on the store’s website or call the 1-800 number (typically listed on the back of the gift card) before purchasing. If exact locations are unknown or you’re not sure how far the recipient will be willing to travel, select a gift card for a family of stores (e.g. Gap gift cards are redeemable at Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap Kids), for an online service (like or choose one that can be used anywhere (e.g. Visa® gift cards).

4. Avoid Restrictions

Thanks to recent changes in gift card laws, most gift cards are valid for at least five years from the date of purchase and will not be charged fees unless inactive for over a year. To be safe, select a gift card with clearly disclosed fees and expiration dates so the recipient has access to all available funds for as long as possible. If you select a gift card with restrictions, add a note to the gift to be sure the recipient understands the limitations.

5. Pick the Best Delivery Method

Companies are offering increasing ways to deliver gift cards electronically–e-mail, text message, Facebook, and so forth. While these options are convenient delivery methods for the giver, the recipient may think otherwise. If the recipient is on Facebook once a week, then a Facebook delivered gift card is fine. If he rarely checks in on Facebook but is always dialed in on his smart phone, then an egift card would be a better choice. If the recipient hasn’t quite stepped into cyberspace, stick with plastic.

Though there is no single gift card that is universally better than others for all occasions, following these steps, you can pick the perfect gift card for each occasion in your life.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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