So I just recently heard that gift cards are crappy gifts, is this true?

FWIW, I’m an etiquette fiend and I love getting gift cards. As several have mentioned, it’s like a free shopping spree. I can be hard to shop for, and to me a gift card at least says “I think you would like some of the things that they sell at this place.” There is also the general etiquette principle of “It’s the act of giving that counts more than the actual gift.”

Any of you people who hate gift cards can send them to me.

I don’t mind gift cards if they are from someone who doesn’t know my tastes well - I appreciate a gift-giver who knows his/her limitations. (My boss usually gives me one around the holidays, and it’s usually to somewhere like Macy’s, where almost anyone can probably find something to appreciate. I generally end up with kitchen gadgets.) Or even my dad- he is pretty hopeless with gifts. One year when I was in college, he asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him “I need clothes - anything but sweaters.” What did he buy? Sweaters.

If someone who ought to know better (like my husband) got me a gift card, I’d secretly be a little bummed that it wasn’t something more personal.

I love 'em. I live 2000 miles away from my family, and while they know what my hobbies and interests are, they don’t know what I have for those hobbies or interests. So, them getting me a gift card allows them to contribute to my life without me ending up with multiple copies of books, CDS, or craft stuff.

My husband informed me just last week that it’s time to update my wish lists. There’s a limit as to how much chocolate he can give me, so he likes it when I have a wish list.

I rarely give gift cards. A nice fat check is usually very well received. One year, I did give a drawstring pouch filled with arcade tokens to two of my nephews (this was back during arcade fever). Both of them were VERY excited to get this.

Gift cards can also be for a restaurant or movies.

If the gift cards come from co-workers or other acquaintances, it’s just fine. Sometimes gifts for birthdays or Christmas are just perfunctory things.

If a close friend or relative did this, I’d raise an eyebrow. Gee, thanks for the fleeting thought, I guess.

If someone of a romantic persuasion handed me a gift card, I’d seriously reconsider the relationship. Really? You don’t give a shit about what I like enough to get off your ass, buy it, wrap it, and give it to me? Just, “Here, dear. Get it yourself. Now get lost.”

I buy Mr. Levins gift cards to the Gap every Christmas so he will go buy new pants/jeans. Otherwise he won’t. I will select/give him shirts and underwear and socks but jeans are a bit difficult. It isn’t, as Two Many Cats says, me not giving a shit. It’s me not having any idea what kind of jeans he wants this year, and him being the kind of guy who actually loves practical gifts. He will get me bookstore gift cards; he would almost certainly fail at picking out books for me to read but he knows I luuuv going to the bookstore every month and coming home with a pile of new ones.

I love getting gift cards! Half Price Books, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, Barnes & Noble, and even Target are all places where I love to shop and would greatly appreciate the gesture of a free lil spree.

And every year my coworkers and I get our boss a GC to to his favorite restaurant for his birthday. He loves it. It’s a birthday tradition that he eats there, and only there. Why not treat him? What else do you get the guy who already has everything?

People who have a problem with gift cards hopefully have friends and family who know this; I personally don’t have any friends who don’t absolutely love them. Having said that…I would never get my mother one. She would assume it means I’m lazy and don’t care enough about her to shop for her…whereas my friends and I see it as a free shopping spree and love it.

To me, a gift card is only a bad gift if it’s a gift card to a store/business that I don’t care much for. That really shows that the person doesn’t know you well and it can almost become a burden trying to spend it: you may have to drive out somewhere, look around for something you don’t really want but could maybe kinda use, but it has to be really close to the price of the card because you don’t want to spend too much over (having to pay out of your pocket for something you didn’t want to begin with) or under (wasting money). Ugh!

It’s perfectly possible to be clueless about physical gifts. I’ve gotten a lot of gifts over the years that reflect the tastes of the giver more than my own. I’m talking about clothes that don’t fit or that aren’t my taste, books in genres that I don’t particularly enjoy, cosmetics and toiletries I’m allergic to, a restaurant with food I can’t eat, and that sort of thing.

On the other hand, well-chosen gift cards are always welcome because I can pick out things that I would enjoy and that would reflect my own needs and tastes. For example, a gift card for Amazon makes me positively ecstatic because I can choose from a zillion different things that I might want and wouldn’t buy for myself. And trust me, a gift card for a store I like doesn’t sit long enough to rack up fees or expire.

I love gift cards. I always ask for them as part of our family’s Secret Santa because 1) it’s a blue moon when I want a specific something, and 2) if I don’t want a specific something, I’m a bit difficult to buy for.

What I do for Secret Santa is write down “Gift card to any of the following stores” and then list them.

After the holidays, let me loose and I’ll run wild!

Gift cards are pretty much my go to gifts these days. I ask my family what they want and get, Oh I don’t know, so the gift card works best.
I do make very sure that it is from a store or restaurant that I know they prefer or go to all the time anyway.

Gift cards are bad gifts because usually lack of money is not what’s stopping you from spending 20-50 bucks at a store. Unless you are broke, then they are great gifts.

No, there are stores I go to on a regular basis but purely as a matter of need. I don’t mind spending the money at those places; if I minded spending the money, I wouldn’t shop there. To me, getting a gift card to one of those places is like getting a package of vacuum cleaner bags and some dish detergent–practical stuff to do chores. Except nobody would ever buy me vacuum bags and detergent because stuff to do chores is a crappy gift.

Come to think of it, I really wouldn’t mind getting vacuum bags and detergent. It would be 2 less things to have to shop for.

I’m with you on this one Idle. When people ask me what I want I tell them I want a gift card to a grocery store so I can buy groceries. People laugh and think I’m joking, but to me, a gift card to a grocery store is the most thoughtful gift you can give me.

I think giving a restaurant gift card is a good gift too, you are saying, “here, treat yourself out to a nice meal with your partner so you don’t have to cook and clean for a night.” That’s thoughtful, and it’s definitely nice. Where’s the problem?

I don’t get the gift card hate. I like them, I think they are plenty thoughtful, and they are useful too. I think hand made gifts are great as well. They are two sides of the same coin.

For me, there’s a bit of a sliding scale. In general, I think gift cards are a great gift - especially for my family where I run into two problems.

a) I have a bunch of aunts and uncles who are all in the “we’re a couple years from retiring and downsizing our house” phase of their life and are thus actively discouraging purchasing any sort of knick-knack or gadget or display item for their house. Therefore, outside of consumables such as liquor or fancy snacks or fancy coffee or something, it can be really hard to shop for them.

b) On the other hand, I have a lot of younger relatives we traditionally exchange gifts with, but they’re all getting into college age, so getting “grown up” gifts like clothes or dvds or such becomes hard since I don’t 100% know exactly what they have or the style they like - and I am horrible at picking out clothes.

Therefore, I vote a gift card is a great gift, thought they’re on a bit of a sliding scale.

Restaurants are a wonderful item - it’s “go out and have a nice dinner on us”. I try really hard to find though out-of-the-way restaurants or new spots that I have a feeling the recipient would like (e.g. they love italian, and this new place opened recently about 15 minutes away and has had some nice reviews). To me, getting a giftcard to a chain restaurant like an Applebees or Fridays or Olive Garden is “meh”. Finding something unusual or new to try (if the recipient is open to that sort of thing - some people would never go to a new restaurant even for free) shows as much thoughtfulness as going to a store a picking out a nice shirt or a book they’d like.

Below that are gift cards for specific stores or types of stores you know someone likes. Like someone who wears a lot of Old Navy or Gap or Areo or whatever. It’s something they’ll appreciate.

Roughly the same level are gift cards for stores with items you don’t necessarily buy every day - like a Best Buy or such. Lots of “fun” things in Best Buy that someone can use your card for that movie or cd or game that they want, but have been saving up for and/or don’t want to quite spend the money on yet.

Just below that are the “nicer” big stores like a Macy’s. As noted above, pretty much everyone can find something in a Macy’s - be it a kitchen gadget or a new shirt or some shoes or something. It’s also generally upscale, so it’s viewed well.

I usually try to stay away from gift cards from the Targets and Walmarts of the world, because they’re often “everyday” stores, and I just don’t see it being as nice for someone since (also as noted above), they’re as likely as not to buy a mop or cleaning supplies. The only exception to this is if the gift is for a housewarming or specifically-asked-for/on-a-registry … then I vote that person’s going to Target/Walmart/Home Depot anyway and will quite appreciate being able to buy towels or whatever they need from the home-goods dept.

For my part, I don’t mind getting gift cards, but that’s probably a reaction to my father-in-law’s tendency to buy random odd things from craft fairs that are miles away from anything I or my wife would like.

It’s not lack of money that keeps me from going to a store. It’s justification for spending that money on what may be a luxury or a want versus a need. If I need a jacket, I’ll spend my own money. If I want a pair of shoes, I’ll wait for a gift card. That’s the difference.

I try to stay away from gift cards as gifts except for when I don’t really know the person well, which is probably why gift cards get that perception.

That said, I bought a gift card for my nephew last month. My sister told me he LOVES gift cards. He likes picking out his own thing instead of other people picking out things for him. He’s 11 so this makes sense.

For adults, the money essentially gets glommed into their regular revenue stream and the gift gets lost in the shuffle. Not that thats bad or anything, but it does feel less “gifty.” For a kid who doesn’t have the opportunity to buy stuff regularly, gift cards seem to be fun. At least for my nephew.

If I don’t know someone well enough such that it would be virtually impossible to pick out a gift to their liking (as many of the posters above have noted about being burdened with unsuitable gifts), I figure I don’t know them well enough to owe them any gift at all. Done and done-zo!!

I have to agree with this. Giving someone your competitor’s gift card is super-duper bad. “Hey, Look! I just gave your competitor a pile of money.”

My kids are 7 and 9, and they love gift cards. If you gave my son a choice between a toy he wants or a gift card to Toys R Us to buy that very same toy, he’ll take the gift card. I love it because this has somehow morphed in his mind to “We can’t buy anything at Toys R Us unless we have a gift card.” Works for me. My daughter now gets gift cards to clothing stores, so she can pick out her own clothes and not have to justify her choices to the parent whose money would otherwise be spent.

I love gift cards, too. As others have said, it’s encouragement to go shopping. I love going into a store, picking out things I want, and spending none of my own money. It’s like sanctioned stealing!