Rick Popko, an account manager in San Francisco, said he sticks to giving his four nephews each a $100 MasterCard gift card, because they specifically requested them and truly “enjoy surfing the Internet and buying things they want along the way."
"They’re not old enough to drive, so they can’t really go out to stores and shop unless they can convince a parent to drive them,” he added.
If they change their minds next Christmas, Popko said he’s happy to change course and head to the malls or shop online for physical gifts. The same sentiment does not apply to one of his close friends, who is fairly easy to shop year in and year out, because he advertises his wishes on his Amazon gift list.
“I have one male friend that I typically buy a Christmas gift for,” he said. “I would never buy him a gift card, though. That would be a bit lazy in my eyes.”
More tips: refrain from relying on grabbing a random gift card at the grocery or convenience store as you head to meet a close friend for dinner, Masini says. Specialty gift cards in particular can be a bit trickier, so make sure the card does not have an expiration date and that there are several locations that are in close proximity to the receiver, said Gottsman.
“A girlfriend of mine knows I love a particular store, and she had mentioned that she liked a piece of costume jewelry,” she said. “I wasn't sure she had purchased it already so I got her a gift card to that store and when we opened each other's holiday card with the gift card enclosed we found we had just exchanged gift cards dollar for dollar! But, it was fun and we got a genuine laugh out of it.”
The monetary value of your gift card should not be a consideration, especially if you and your friend routinely exchange gift cards with each other.
“It's the thought that counts,” Gottsman said.
Many people still enjoy receiving gift cards, especially general ones that can be used anywhere or if you are helping them celebrate an occasion such as giving them a gift card from a home improvement store after they moved into a new home, said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and the founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla.
“A gift card always fits," she said. "It’s never returned and it gives the receiver choices as to what he or she can buy.”