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Top 10 Gift Cards for Employee Rewards

The best gift cards to give your employees to reward them and recognize them for a job well done! Employee Appreciation Day is March 5, 2021.

employees congratulating each other

According to an article in Entrepreneur Magazine, “Every company needs a strategic reward system for employees that addresses these four areas: compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation.” The author goes on to say that while many companies adequately provide compensation and benefits, they often struggle to provide proper employee recognition and appreciation. One of the oversights is not rewarding behaviors they want to foster within the company or expressing adequate appreciation for a significant contribution. Having been an employee for more than a handful of companies, I agree that I’ve felt more valued by some employers than others, despite a consistent performance level.

From personal handwritten notes of thanks to public commendations for a job well done, there are many ways to let your employees know they are valued. Gift cards, of course, are one of the most popular ways to give staff a little bump without too much expense. If you are planning to give gift cards to employees as holiday bonuses, thank you gifts, gifts of appreciation and so forth, check out my list of Top 10 Employee Reward Gift Cards below.

There’s a little something for everyone with a few suggestions on how to make these awards even more meaningful.

1. Visa Gift Card or Mastercard Gift Card

visa gift card with basketball image

Besides cash or a check, the most versatile reward you can give to employees is a Visa gift card or a custom Mastercard gift card. These bank-issued gift cards are accepted online, in stores and over the phone at literally millions of establishments so employees can use them to buy treats such as dinner at a nice restaurant, tickets to a cultural performance or a new laptop. These cards can also be used for more practical purchases such as gas, groceries and housewares. With a Visa gift card, employees get the recognition they deserve, but can spend it however they want.

To really do employee gift cards right, put the company logo, brand logo or team picture on the card. Add custom messages like “Great job” or “Thank you” to the embossed message line as well. Or put a picture of your star employees on the gift card.

2. Multi-Store Gift Cards

happy dining and happy thanks gift card

Since I wrote this original post, a new type of gift card is available. Their called “multi-store” or “multi-brand” gift cards because they are usable at any of the stores and restaurants featured on the cards. With the Happy Dining gift card, for example, the recipient can use it for a dinner out at a restaurant of their choosing. With the Happy Thanks gift card, employees can use the card for anything from hardware at the home improvement store to makeup at the beauty counter, plus a sandwich or a hoodie in between. This is a flexible gift card that does not require the purchaser to pay an activation fee or the recipient to pay non-use fees.

Here’s a list of all the physical and digital multi-store gift cards currently available.

3. Giving Good® Gift Cards

lineup of giving good gift cards

For businesses that believe in the Triple Bottom Line (taking care of profit, people and the planet), Giving Good® gift cards may send the best message.

For each Giving Good gift card purchased, at least three percent of the purchase price is donated to the charity shown on the card. The gift card is additionally still usable at any of the stores and restaurants shown on the card so employees will enjoy the same benefits they get with other multi-store gift cards, while the employer contributes to a charity as well. If you’re going to buy gift cards anyway, why not do more good in the process?

Learn more about Giving Good gift cards.

4. Food Delivery Gift Cards

someone ordering food with a phone app

In 2020, food delivery gift cards became some of the most popular gift cards to give. If you have employees who work remote, think about sending a gift card to DoorDash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. Employees can use the gift cards to order a team lunch together or they can use it off-hours for any of the hundreds of local restaurants in their area. If you are a company who wants to support small businesses, this is a great way to do it.

Here’s a list of the Best Food Delivery Gift Cards

5. Streaming Gift Cards

streaming gift cards

Not every employee looks for more screen time when the work day is over, but many do as a way to relax and unwind. If your employees are talking about binge watching shows like The Crown or you hear chatter about NBA league pass, then a streaming gift card might hit the right nerve. Just spend a little time figuring out which streaming service employees use or if you get a sense they’d be willing (or even wanting) to try a new one, then get that gift card.

Here’s a list of the Best Streaming Gift Cards

6. Gaming Gift Cards

gaming gift cards with nintendo case

If you have a gaming group in your employee base, then a gaming gift card will be right on target. Again, you’ll want to know what systems your employees are using to get the right one. If you don’t want to guess wrong, then a GameStop gift card or a Best Buy gift card can be used to level up almost any system.

Here’s a list of the Best Gaming Gift Cards

7. Amazon.com

Amazon gift card

When it comes to giving employees choices, few stores rival the amount of available merchandise at Amazon.com and few gift cards match the ease of use as well. This is especially true when sending digital gift cards because they can be sent almost instantaneously, the recipient can virtually “click and redeem” the cards within seconds and merchandise is shipped in no time. I also like that Amazon.com gift cards can be “redeemed” without being spent–in other words, you can redeem an Amazon.com gift card by adding it to your account. The company then saves the card value and reminds you to use the credit on your next purchase. That’s pretty convenient.

If you prefer to hand physical gift cards to your employees but don’t always know when you’ll need them or how much money you want to put on each card, check out CardNow.com. CardNow is an on-demand gift card reward system that allows you to keep a stash of inactive gift cards on hand plus an app that lets you activate the gift cards when you want them and for the dollar amounts you choose. Here’s my review of CardNow.

8. Target and Walmart

target gift card

When flexibility is important (and it usually is), I like to steer clients towards Target and Walmart gift cards because they can be redeemed for a variety of merchandise. Want new patio furniture? You can get that. Need a new phone? Easy. Out of milk? You can get that too. Employees can spend their reward cards on just about anything they need at these two stores and locations are readily available in most areas. Both offer curbside pickup as well as online shopping too.

Quick tip! Go digital. Imagine your top employee getting a surprise Target egift card in his email inbox with a note that reads “Thanks for helping us hit our TARGET goals this month!” No big ceremony or public display needed. Just instant, immediate rewards.

Order individual egift cards or place a larger corporate order at OmniCard.

9. Spafinder

Spafinder gift card

For a more zen experience, get your employees a Spafinder gift card that can be redeemed at spas and salons across the country. From a foot reflexology massage to a new hair cut just in time for spring, Spafinder gift cards are redeemable for personal treatments of all kinds. If your employees are not the pampering kind, maybe they enjoy adventuring instead. Here’s a list of travel gift cards to consider plus some suggestions for making travel gift cards more personal: free travel printables.

10. Entertainment Gift Cards

Cabela's gift card

Gift cards that represent the exact opposite of work are some of my favorite employee reward cards to give because the gesture shows that the company encourages work-life balance. So, send the team out river rafting, book a laser tag party and challenge another department to a contest or get everyone in the group a gift card to a local sporting goods store and you’ll see that teamwork likely improves. Add a note that says, “Glad we’re on the same team!”

Sporting Goods: Here are a couple of sporting goods gift cards: Bass Pro Shops, Topgolf and Cabela’s.

happy moments gift card

Along that same line, a gift card to movie theater (for those who are ready to go out) could be just the boost your employees need to get through a stressful work period or to celebrate the completion of a project. To make the reward even sweeter, I challenge you to give employees a floating half day vacation to use the movie gift card for a matinee, if they choose. Of course, they don’t have to use the time off in that way, but some will and many more will simply appreciate the gesture. As a working mom, I would jump at the chance to take the kids to the movies during the daytime and would tell the kids exactly who gifted us the opportunity to do so. That’s goodwill at it’s best.

Movie Theaters: Buy a gift card to a specific movie theater like Regal Entertainment Group or get the Happy Moments gift card that can be used at a movie theater or any of the other stores and restaurants listed on the card. I like that option a lot.

Book Stores: For those who won’t want to be with the crowd, but still deserve a break, let them use that half day off to read a good book. A bookstore gift cards offers the perfect respite.

Did I miss any of your favorite employee reward gift cards? This is an area that I’m hugely passionate about because I’ve seen it done wrong too many times–the same pair of sunglasses for everyone in the office, t-shirts that are only distributed in large or extra large sizes, crystal vases inscribed with a project name so they can’t be used at home and many other employee initiatives that turned into morale busters instead of morale boosters. So if you have any doubts about what makes the perfect employee gift or want my stamp of approval on a gift card selected, feel free to reach out to me directly.

If you have another suggestion for this list of Top 10 Employee Reward Gift Cards, then let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend) or on Instagram (@Gift.Card.Girlfriend).

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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