One of the best gifts to give someone for the holidays is a gift card. That’s because it’s what most people want, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation. But, how do you pick the right card?
If you plan to buy gift cards this holiday season, avoid the worst gift cards and consider these picks instead.
It’s hard to go wrong with a gift card from the retailer that ranks as the favorite consumer e-commerce website — Amazon. Versatility and range are the big pluses of this gift card.
“You can buy almost anything on Amazon,” said Shelley Hunter, who is known as the Gift Card Girlfriend at GiftCards.com. You can also purchase gift cards in any amount ranging from $1 to $2,000, so it’s a great option for budget-conscious buyers and big spenders alike.
Additionally, Amazon gift cards have no fees and never expire. You can send a plastic gift card by mail with free, one-day shipping, print out a card or send an e-gift card — which can be animated or personalized with a photo — by email or text message.
A Walmart gift card is a good bet because the big-box retailer sells a wide variety of great deals online and in thousands of locations across the country, said Kendal Perez, a savings expert for Coupon Sherpa. You can give an e-gift card worth from $5 to $200 or a plastic card valued between $10 and $1,000.
Not only can Walmart gift cards be used in stores and online, but they are also redeemable at Sam’s Club and Vudu.com. They have no fees and never expire. Plus, unlike with some gift cards, you can get your Walmart cards shipped for free if you purchase them online.
As a bonus, Walmart gift card recipients can easily resell unwanted cards. In fact, Walmart gift cards have high resale values and typically fetch 90 percent of their face values based on prices listed on Gift Card Granny, said Perez.
A gift card from this big-box retailer is a good choice because Target sells such a variety of things, said Hunter. You can buy Target gift cards in the store, online or at other retailers, and purchase them in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,000 for plastic cards and $5 to $200 for mobile and e-gift cards.
Plastic gift cards bought online ship for free. And a physical card that hasn’t been used can be returned for a refund in-store with a receipt.
A Best Buy gift card is great for electronics enthusiasts — especially because Best Buy will match its competitors’ prices, said Perez. Gift card recipients can take advantage of that policy to make sure they’re getting the best prices.
Best Buy gift cards can be purchased in stores and online in amounts ranging from $15 to $1,000. Plus, an e-gift card can be personalized with a message, photo and video for free.
Plastic gift cards purchased online ship for free, and gift card orders of $25 or more qualify for free, two-day shipping. And if you’re a My Best Buy member, you’ll get rewards points for gift card purchases.
“Nordstrom is a great gift card for fashion lovers who want access to both midline and luxury styles,” said Perez. Plus, the department store’s free shipping policy makes it easy for gift card recipients to use their cards for online purchases without worrying about paying extra for shipping. Gift cards can also be used at Nordstrom Rack, its website and the Hautelook website.
Nordstrom gift cards can be purchased in stores, online and by phone in amounts ranging from $5 to $2,000. Plastic gift cards bought online ship for free, and you can send e-gift cards by email. As an added benefit, Nordstrom donates 1 percent of its gift card sales to nonprofit organizations.
Kohl’s ranks as the No. 3 favorite retailer among consumers, according to the National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine. Plus, it sells a range of products from clothing to electronics and even furniture.
Kohl’s gift cards can be bought and used in stores or online. Gift cards purchased online ship for free, and you can send an e-gift card if you prefer. The one drawback of Kohl’s gift cards is that the maximum value is limited to $100.
The biggest benefit of buying a Gap gift card is that it can also be used at Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores and websites. You can buy traditional or electronic gift cards in amounts ranging from $10 to $500.
Gift cards purchased online ship for free. And e-gift cards can be customized with photos and messages at no charge.
“Everyone’s favorite chain coffee shop represents a great gift card for java lovers since it comes with perks,” said Perez. Starbucks gift card holders can register their cards and reload them for continued use and other benefits as part of the Starbucks Rewards program.
You can buy Starbucks gift cards in stores and online in amounts ranging from $5 to $500 or send e-gift cards by email. Cards are accepted at most Starbucks locations in North America, including those in airports and grocery stores, and online. There are no fees, and the cards never expire.
This home improvement retailer’s gift card can be bought and used in stores and online. You can buy plastic and electronic gift cards in amounts ranging from $25 to $500.
For your convenience, gift cards purchased online ship for free in two to 10 business days. And an e-gift card can be personalized with a message, photo and video at no charge. Home Depot gift cards are reloadable in stores and online, have no fees and never expire.
The primary difference between a Lowe’s card and a Home Depot card is that the minimum amount you can purchase at Lowe’s is lower — $5. Lowe’s gift cards can be purchased and used in stores and online.
Plastic cards purchased online ship for free, or you can send an electronic version with a personal message. Would-be buyers should note that, unlike Home Depot, Lowe’s doesn’t include video personalization with its cards, however.
Fandango Gift Card
Fandango gift cards are ideal gifts for movie fanatics because they can be used to buy tickets at several theaters, said Hunter. Cinemas that accept Fandango include AMC, Carmike, Cinemark, Regal and many more. You have to use Fandango gift cards to purchase tickets online or on the Fandango app rather than purchasing at theaters, however.
You can send a Fandango e-gift card or purchase a traditional gift card on its website, Amazon or at retailers such as Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and Walgreens. There are shipping and handling fees for Fandango gift cards purchased online, though.
Any Gift Cards From Discount Sites
Here’s a little-known secret: Before you buy any of the previously mentioned gift cards straight from the retailer, check sites such as Cardpool, Raise and Gift Card Granny. These sites sell gift cards at a discounted price compared to retailers, which means you can save up to 35 percent on gift cards.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.