The Most Popular Types of Gift Cards

A gift card is a prepaid card with a particular amount of money attached to it that's accepted at particular retailers. Gift cards allow someone to make purchases at stores without having to carry cash.

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Whether it's for a birthday or holiday, everyone loves receiving gift cards. While giving cash is a nice gift, offering someone a specific gift card to a store he or she enjoys shows that you know that person's interests and demonstrates that thought and care went into the gift-buying process. Over the years, gift cards have increased in popularity as more than 40 percent of people requested gift cards during the 2017 holiday season. Gift cards typically fall into two categories: a specific store card or a VISA or MasterCard gift card. While some people think that the latter makes better gifts, as they're accepted almost everywhere, both types of cards have unique benefits.

Most Popular Gift Cards

The popularity of gift cards has increased over the last five years or so. Originally, people often viewed gift cards as a thoughtless gift that someone picked up at the last minute while in a store checkout line. However, the perception of gift cards has changed because people are able to use them more easily. In the past, people dreaded getting gift cards, as they wondered if they would even be able to use it, but with the rapid increase in online shopping, many people are warming up to the idea of receiving gift cards—and in a lot of cases, are even asking for them. For the 2017 holiday season in order from the most popular to least popular, the most popular gift cards were:

  • Amazon gift cards
  • VISA gift cards
  • Walmart gift cards
  • iTunes gift cards
  • American Express gift cards
  • Target gift cards
  • Starbucks gift cards
  • Disney gift cards
  • Sephora gift cards
  • eBay gift cards

Amazon and VISA were tied for the first-place spot. Amazon is the largest online retailer, so it's no surprise that it's at the top of the list. Almost every online and brick and mortar retailer accepts VISA, which is why this card is one of the most requested options.

Gift Card Gift Ideas

When giving a gift card to someone, there are many ways to enhance the appearance, making it a more memorable experience. While most people just put the gift card inside a birthday or holiday card, you can take it a step further and present the gift in a personalized way that shows how much you care about the person. If you're an arts-and-crafts type of person, make a customized gift cardholder, adorned with charming decorations. Does the person you're giving a gift to love candy? Sandwich the gift card between two candy bars that are taped together, revealing a nice surprise once the recipient separates the candies.

Coffee sleeves are the ideal size to hold gift cards, and you can also decorate the sleeve's exterior with drawings or a thoughtful saying. If you have library card envelopes sitting around your house, use them to store a gift card and add custom decorations to give a special someone a unique gift.

If you're giving someone an e-gift card where there's a code to redeem, you can still enhance the gift in a few ways. People can often scan e-gift cards with their phones or tablets, so you can print out the card and place it in a decorative bag to liven up the gift.

Gift Card Exchange Services

If you receive a gift card that you don't want, there are many exchange services where you can trade your gift card in for cash. Exchange services make money by offering you a bit less in cash than the actual value of the card, but if you don't have any use for the gift card, it could be worth it. The amount of cash you'll get depends on the demand for the gift card. If the card is for a less popular store or a store that focuses on a specific niche, such as a restaurant or bookstore gift card, you're likely to receive a smaller amount. However, if you have one of the more popular gift cards, such as Amazon or Walmart, the cash offer you get should be closer to 100% of the card's value.

There are online gift card exchanges where you either give the code over the Internet or mail the card to the company and then receive payment via check or PayPal. Sometimes, you can exchange your gift card for another gift card at a better rate.

There are also physical gift card exchanges, often located in grocery stores. The major benefit of using these machines is that you'll be paid instantly.

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