People who want to get a gift for someone but don't quite know what to choose might consider a gift card. Similar to a gift certificate, it looks more like a credit card, with a magnetic strip on the back that logs the amount of money that the card holds. The recipient can use it like a credit card, spending up to the card's value at the store designated on the gift card or, if no specific store is named, whenever he or she chooses.
Virtually all major stores issue gift cards for the asking. The card must be spent in the store where it was purchased or, if the store is part of a chain, any outlet will redeem it. It is also possible to buy cards that can be used in a selection of stores that all belong to the same parent company or that are all located in the same location, such as a shopping mall. Many credit card issuers also make gift cards available, and these can be spent anywhere that accepts the credit from that issuer.
Most gift cards have no expiration date, although a few are only good for a year from when they are issued. The money on the card also does not have to be spent at once. If the purchase is less than the amount of the card, a balance of credit remains. The holder need not keep track of the balance, as a quick scan of the magnetic strip at the register will reveal this information.
A gift card often feels like a credit card that the user never has to pay off. This makes it fun to receive and also to spend. It also allows the recipient to do his own shopping, getting himself exactly what he needs or wants most.
Many types of businesses, including beauty shops and spas, also issue gift cards. This is a great way for a person to give someone he knows a makeover or a little pampering without trying to arrange a specific appointment. With the card, the receiver can treat herself to something she would never do for herself, or would put off indefinitely, at a time that suits her schedule.
With the love affair people have with credit cards, a gift card of any denomination is sure to be appreciated. It can also fit nicely inside a greeting card, and some businesses will even place one in a small elegant box and wrap it with a ribbon. The denomination is also included on an insert so the receiver will know how generous the giver has been.
While each store has its own policies, normally a gift card cannot be exchanged for cash. The value of a returned item that was purchased with a gift card will be added back to the card. In many cases, if purchases leave a balance of less than $5.00 US Dollars (USD) remaining on the card, the holder might receive change back, if requested, to close the card out. Rules governing these finer points are at the discretion of the issuer.