November 30

The Best Place to Buy Gift Cards

3 Reasons to Buy Gift Cards Directly from the Source

If you plan to buy a gift card this holiday season, be extra cautious when grabbing one off the rack at a grocery store or drug store. The "one-stop gift card shop" that offers consumers convenience also gives fraudsters access to a wide range of gift cards they can target in gift card scams. Before you roll the dice, read this post on how to avoid gift card fraud.

Where should you buy gift cards instead? Purchase gift cards directly from the stores or restaurants themselves. Here are three reasons why purchasing gift cards straight from the source is a smarter choice.

1. Exclusive Perks and Packaging

free gift wrapping

You often get more than just the card when you buy a gift card directly from a store or restaurant. Many businesses offer special gift-ready packaging, like cute little boxes, free greeting cards, and even bags with tissue and bows. This extra touch can make your gift feel more festive and save you the cost and effort of wrapping the gift card.

Direct gift card purchases often come with enticing deals. For instance, Subway offers a free 6-inch sandwich with every $25 Subway gift card purchase. The Cheesecake Factory gives a $15 Bonus eCard with a $50 Cheesecake Factory Gift Card purchase. Half Price Books provides a $5 off coupon with a $25 Half Price Books Gift Card. These deals add value to your gift and can benefit you as the giver. (Just be sure to check the fine print since many gift card BOGO deals are only usable for a limited period.)

Another perk is the variety of gift card designs available. Take DSW, for example. Buying a DSW gift card at a grocery store limits you to a generic design. However, purchasing DSW gift cards directly from DSW (online or in-store) opens up a range of fun and unique designs.

2. Enhanced Security

woman in a small retail shop

Buying gift cards directly from the merchant means fewer hands touch the gift cards, reducing the risk of fraud. Smaller stores can more easily monitor their gift card displays, and some of the prevalent scams in larger retailers are less likely to occur in stores that only activate their gift cards.

Due to their anonymity and liquidity, the FTC reports that scammers often target general-use gift cards from major retailers like Target, Google Play, Apple, eBay, Walmart, and Amazon. In contrast, gift cards from specific restaurants, movie theaters, or clothing stores are less attractive to scammers, making them a safer choice.

Purchasing gift cards directly from stores and restaurants helps ensure the gift cards you give this holiday season will be authentic, reliable, and uncompromised.

3. Better Support

woman customer service agent

When you buy gift cards from a third-party rack, consumers often express frustration with the lack of help when a gift card doesn't work. Let me explain.

When you buy a gift card from a third-party rack, there are usually three main entities involved:

  • The retail store (like a grocery store) that sells the gift card
  • The merchant (such as a store, restaurant, etc.) whose gift card is being sold and where the card will eventually be redeemed
  • The third-party gift card company that manages the rack and acts as an intermediary between the retail store and the merchant.

This multi-party system complicates the process of resolving issues.

If a gift card doesn't work, it's not always clear who the customer should contact. The retail store might direct the customer to the merchant or the gift card company since they only handle the sale, not the activation or redemption of the card. The merchant will direct the customer back to the grocery store because they are primarily concerned with redemption and do not have insight into the card's activation or sale process. The third-party gift card company is responsible for distributing and activating the cards but is generally less accessible to the average consumer for direct support.

With no business taking ownership of the gift card failure, each party redirects the customer to the others, leading to a frustrating loop of referrals. When this happens, customers do not get the support they deserve to resolve their gift card issue.

By contrast, if you buy a gift card directly from the merchant, there's only one company to deal with, and they have complete oversight of the gift card journey--from purchase to redemption. Additionally, if you use a loyalty program while purchasing the gift card, there's an extra layer of proof of purchase that can aid in resolving any activation issues.

For Gift Cards: DIRECT IS BEST

To sum up, buying gift cards directly from merchants offers several advantages. You can enjoy special perks, packaging, and design choices that enhance the gifting experience. The transaction will likely be more secure, and customer support will be more straightforward if any issues arise. For these reasons, when it comes to gift cards, DIRECT IS BEST.

So, consider going straight to the source for your gift card purchases this holiday season. You will enjoy extra benefits and peace of mind, and your recipients are more likely to get a gift card that works.

I hope that helps,


Oh, Hey - Is your gift card certified? Show consumers you are serious about making gift cards easy to use, fraud-free, and guaranteed by signing up as a "Gift Card You Can Trust.

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About the author 

Shelley Hunter

In 2009, Shelley Hunter launched to show consumers how to turn gift cards into thoughtful gifts. However, she quickly discovered that consumers had more significant concerns--like what to do when a gift card doesn't work or you receive a gift card you don't want. So, on her blog, later acquired by and then by BHN, Hunter spent 14 years answering those questions (and hundreds more) as the one-and-only consumer advocate in the gift card industry.

But it wasn't enough.

Hunter believes consumers are more confused than ever, thanks to increased gift card scams, fraud, store closings, varying state gift card laws, financial practices, and inconsistent products. Now, back as an independent consumer guide to gift cards, Hunter is enlisting the help of retailers and lawmakers in making gift cards easy to use, fraud-free, and guaranteed.

Shouldn't EVERY GIFT CARD be Easy to Use, Fraud-Free, and Guaranteed?

Put your gift card program to the test.