The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The Problem With Gift Cards

There are three inevitabilities in life: death, taxes, and getting gift cards on your birthday. 

I feel like gift cards have a bad reputation. A lot of people think that they are just very thoughtless and effortless gifts … and they are, but they are free money. Who hates getting money? Not me, that’s for sure. If it’s from a significant other, I’d understand because you would kind of expect them to put more effort into a gift, but besides that, I will take money any day of the week because I get to decide what my gift is.

My problem with gift cards does not lie in their thoughtlessness; it’s the fact that they are one big fat scam.

Let me just preface this by saying that I am not ungrateful when people buy me gift cards. They are still spending their hard-earned money on me, and I would never bash that. That said, gift cards are a complete and total scam, and you shouldn’t buy them.

Gift cards are bad for two big reasons: how restrictive they are and how they are literally designed by companies to nickel and dime you.

Gift cards inherently carry less value than what you buy them for. Just think about it: if you buy a $20 gift card, you now have a card that can only be spent at one place. Not only that, but they also tend to have expiration dates, so you are giving money to get time and place-restricted money instead. It quite literally makes no sense to buy these things, you’re just trading money for a glorified coupon.

Beyond that, these things are specifically designed to mooch money off of you or the person they are giving it to. Either the person with the gift card doesn’t use the full amount so they don’t go over or they have to spend their own cash to buy the remainder of an item. Either way, the company from that gift card is making more money because that person is forced to spend their money at that store.

In fact, companies are relying on you not spending gift cards. They even have a term for it called breakage, which describes the amount of revenue gained from unspent gift cards. According to CNN, Americans have a total of $21 billion in unspent gift cards. This is around $175 of unspent money per person. 

Look, I get that just straight cash makes a gift look thoughtless, but I’d argue gift cards are even more thoughtless than cash because of how limiting they are. You’re basically just throwing money down the toilet buying these things. I have absolutely no problem with a gift being “thoughtless” because it puts a lot more stress on the gifter to find something the recipient would like when they can get exactly what they want with a gift card.

Next time you’re looking to get someone a quick and easy gift, just give them cash or a check. It’s better for everyone that way.

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