Travel gift certificate?

Do any of the major travel cites (Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity … ) sell gift certificates? We’d like to get one for a friend, but I can’t find mention of them on any of the sites. Am I just not seeing the obvious? Could they be called Travel Vouchers and I’m not searching correctly? Or do we need to go back to the drawing board gift-wise?

I did try … I’ve even called Priceline and Travelocity. But no luck yet. CYGTFM?



Okay, WTF?

I’ve now called Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotwire, and and none of them will take my money to give to someone else.

That’s a lot of 'no’s to be mere coincidence … or is it? Any idea why none of the services sell gift certificates?

This is just a WAG, but I would guess it has something to do with the fact that travel websites are essentially agents. When you book a flight or a hotel through such a website, you are not comissioning any services from them; instead, they will find the appropriate hotel and flight for you, act as intermediaries between the service provider and you, and will process the payment (deducting a commission for themselves before remitting the money to the service provider). Orbitz, for instance, makes it quite clear in its terms and conditions that when you book a flight or a hotel, you are contracting with a third-party supplier.

I could be mistaken, though - AFAIK, Amazon let you buy gift cards which you can also spend on Marketplace products, where, too, they are acting as intermediaries between you and third party suppliers.

Yeah, it’s a weird gap. You can get them for hotel chains and for cruises though.

You could look into the pre-paid credit cards from Visa or American Express. It’s essentially a gift card that can be used anywhere.

And by the way, CYGTFM? Huh?

I know a couple of low-cost airlines in the UK sell gift vouchers, but there is a major snag with them. This is because these airlines try to force everyone to book tickets on-line and (guess what) there is no way to use these vouchers by booking tickets that way. So you have to use their telephone booking service, where you will be faced by a hefty surcharge for not booking on-line.

The Visa card is a good idea, but a bit non-specific. Not that big a deal, really, but there’s a subtle nuance between the two. Kind of the difference between “here’s a trip” and “here’s a giftcard, why don’t you take a trip?”

It’s amazing Priceline et al haven’t worked out the potential income stream from selling gift certificates. The upsell potential to the user is enormous.

Oh, I was looking for an answer that should have been easily found (but I couldn’t)–so CYGTFM? Could You Google That For Me?

Individual airlines offer gift cards. (Continental is left off of the linked list).

Hotel chains offer gift cards. Avis and Budget rental cars offer gift cards.

In my limited experience, you can get just as good of a deal or even better by purchasing airline tickets and hotels on the individual sites as you can from the 3rd party sites. YMMV.

I think Shnitte is right…it’s just too complicated for these resellers to be able to sell gift cards for their services.

Another alternative is to contact a local travel agent. Even if the big online agents aren’t set up for this, a local one might be or might do it informally.

Airlines sell Gift Certificates. Check the airline of your choice.

Travelocity offers gift cards, but they are good for hotels only, not for air fare, and you need to both purchase and redeem them at a different address than their regular site:

I’ve never bought a gift card there, but I have redeemed one, and it worked fine.

This is nothing against you, because I perfectly understand the motivation, but I still think that buying gift cards (not just for travel websites) is a very strange thing. Essentially, you give them money in exchange for something that has the same face value as money, but can only be spent at that place. Essentially, the purchase of the gift certificate is a very clear loss for the purchaser as well as the recipient of the gift: The money used to buy a gift card can be used to buy anything the gift card could also buy, plus an infinitely larger choice of other products as well. Clearly it is irrational to give gift cards rather than money. The only thing that keeps gift cards viable as a business model is this strange cultural perception in modern societies that while everything revolves around money, money is sumething not to be talked about and not really suitable for social contexts…it’s an interesting thing to think about.

I actually agree 100% with your basic premise, but I know that around here recently, many places are seemingly trying to get past our kind of thinking by making offers like “Buy our $50 Gift Card and we will throw in a bonus $10 card as a Thank You for your business” so essentially you are getting $60 worth of value for $50. These deals are very common here, especially for restaurants or nightclubs.

I might be a sucker, but that makes my natural reluctance to buy gift cards kind of slip away, as I am always looking for a deal or discount. Of course it’s only a bargain if the card is for somewhere that I (or the intended recipient) likes.

A lot of people in the US receive gift cards but never use them. I found one article that estimated that of the $97 billion spent on these cards in the US in 2007, $8 billion went unredeemed. So the retailers love that, as that $8 billion is pure profit. And even if a gift card is eventually redeemed, the retailer has earned interest in the interim.