Gift cards vs Cash
I’m sure it’s happened to you. A birthday, holiday, or special occasion is coming up for someone in your life, but you have no clue what to get them. For all but the closest of my family members this happens to be frequently. It’s even worse for my parents and in-laws as they generally have all of the things they need or want that are within the price range I can afford. I try to look for things they want and wouldn’t normally purchase for themselves, but that’s tough. So many times I resort to gift cards.
Why Gift cards vs. Cash?
I fairly recently purchased a gift card for my Dad for Father’s Day and on the way home I began considering why I purchased a gift card rather than just giving him cash. I mean on the surface a gift card isn’t near as convenient or flexible as cash. Here are a few other things I began to consider as well:
- Giftcards cost money, cash doesn’t - Hidden in small print surrounding your the gift card is the details on the fee. Generally they are just a few dollars and frankly I don’t have an issue with someone getting a service fee for providing the cards. What did bug me though is that I’m paying for something that is just providing the same basic value as cash. Why?
- Giftcards are limiting – I generally purchase Visa, MasterCard or American Express gift cards. I’m not a big fan of buying a gift card for particular store or restaurant as they are limiting. What if the person I am purchasing the gift card for doesn’t like that store or restaurant. What if they can’t find what they want at that store? Their stuck, unless they utilize one of the gift card exchange websites. I prefer to use the Visa, MasterCard or American Express gift cards as they can be used most anywhere. But still, what if they want to but something that’s cash only? We’ve found many places here in the mountains that only take cash.
- Giftcards are more personal - Technically they aren’t, but they feel more personal for some reason. Why is that? Why does a pretty little plastic card make it feel more valuable and important than cash? For some reason, society has made us feel like cash is an impersonal gift, but gift cards aren’t. That bugs me. I remember as a kid the best gift anybody could give me was cash. I loved the fact that I could take that cash and buy what I wanted. Particularly things I wanted that nobody else would really know what to buy: a particular model car, or that particular model train engine I had been wanted to buy (not the engine without the dynamic brakes but the one with them).
So how do you feel about gift cards? Why not just give cash? Is it really less personal, and if so why? I think from now on instead of gift cards, I’m getting people what I would want to receive, and that’s cash.