Gift card

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Gift card for a U.S hardware store OSH gift card.jpg
Gift card for a U.S hardware store

A gift card also known as gift certificate in North America, or gift voucher or gift token in the UK [1] is a prepaid stored-value money card, usually issued by a retailer or bank, to be used as an alternative to cash for purchases within a particular store or related businesses. Gift cards are also given out by employers or organizations as rewards or gifts. They may also be distributed by retailers and marketers as part of a promotion strategy, to entice the recipient to come in or return to the store, and at times such cards are called cash cards. Gift cards are generally redeemable only for purchases at the relevant retail premises and cannot be cashed out, and in some situations may be subject to an expiry date or fees. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa offer generic gift cards which need not be redeemed at particular stores, and which are widely used for cashback marketing strategies. A feature of these cards is that they are generally anonymous and are disposed of when the stored value on a card is exhausted.

Contents

From the purchaser's point of view, a gift card is a gift, given in place of an object which the recipient may not need, when the giving of cash as a present may be regarded as socially inappropriate. In the United States, gift cards are highly popular, ranking in 2006 as the second-most given gift by consumers, the most-wanted gift by women, and the third-most wanted by males.[ citation needed ] Gift cards have become increasingly popular as they relieve the donor of selecting a specific gift. [2] In 2012, nearly 50% of all US consumers claimed to have purchased a gift card as a present during the holiday season. [3] In Canada, $1.8 billion was spent on gift cards, and in the UK it is estimated to have reached £3 billion in 2009,[ needs update ] whereas in the United States about US$80 billion was paid for gift cards in 2006. [4] [5] The recipient of a gift card can use it at their discretion within the restrictions set by the issue, for example as to validity period and businesses that accept a particular card.

History

Neiman Marcus introduced the first giftcard using a payments infrastructure in late 1994, [6] though Blockbuster Entertainment was the first company to do so on a wide scale, [7] test-marketing them in 1995 and launching them around the country the next year. In the beginning, the Blockbuster giftcard replaced gift certificates that were being counterfeited with recently introduced color copiers and color printers. Blockbuster's first giftcard transactions were processed by what was then Nabanco of Sunrise, Florida Nabanco was the developer of the first third-party platform for the processing of gift cards using existing payment infrastructure.

Neiman Marcus and Blockbuster were later followed by the Mobil gas card, which initially offered prepaid phone value provided by MCI. Kmart was next with the introduction of the Kmart Cash Card, which in the early generations provided prepaid phone time with AT&T. Later Kmart and Mobil dropped this feature, as it was not profitable for them. The Kmart Cash Card was the first replacement for cash returns when a shopper did not have a receipt for a gift. This practice of giving a cash card in place of cash for non-receipted returns is commonplace today with most merchants. From these early introductions, other retailers began to adapt a giftcard program to replace their gift certificate programs.

Function and types

An assortment of gift cards, many from U.S. national retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Home Depot. Gift card assortment.jpg
An assortment of gift cards, many from U.S. national retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Home Depot.

A gift card may resemble a credit card or display a specific theme on a plastic card the size of a credit card. The card is identified by a specific number or code, not usually with an individual name, and thus could be used by anybody. They are backed by an on-line electronic system for authorization. Some gift cards can be reloaded by payment and can be used thus multiple times.

Cards may have a serial number, barcode, magnetic strip, which is read by an electronic credit card machine. Many cards have no value until they are sold, at which time the cashier enters the amount which the customer wishes to put on the card. This amount is rarely stored on the card but is instead noted in the merchant's database, which is cross linked to the card ID. Gift cards thus are generally not stored-value cards as used in many public transport systems or library photocopiers, where a simplified system with no network stores the value only on the card itself. To thwart counterfeiting, the data is encrypted. The magnetic strip is also often placed differently than on credit cards, so they cannot be read or written with standard equipment. Other gift cards may have a set value and need to be activated by calling a specific phone number.

Gift cards can also be individually custom tailored to meet specific needs. By adding a custom message or name on the front of the card, it can make for an individualized gift or be used as a gesture of appreciation towards an employee.

Gift cards are divided into open loop or network cards and closed loop cards. The former are issued by banks or credit card companies and can be redeemed by different merchants, the latter by a specific store or restaurant and can be only redeemed by the issuing provider. The latter, however, tend to have fewer problems with card value decay and fees. [8] Card value decay is less of an issue since the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was passed by the US Congress in 2009. Inactivity fees and card expirations are both limited by the new law. [9]

In either case the giver would buy the gift card and may have to pay an additional purchase or activation fee, and the recipient of the card would use the value of the card at a later transaction. A third form is the hybrid closed loop card whose issuer has bundled a number of closed loop cards; an example is free gift cards for a specific shopping mall.

Gift cards differ from scrip gift certificates, in that the latter are usually sold as a paper document with an authorized signature by a restaurant, store, or other individual establishment as a voucher for a future service; there is no electronic authorization. A gift certificate may or may not have an expiration date and generally has no administrative fees.

Bank issued gift cards may be used in lieu of checks as a way to disburse rebate funds. Some retailers use the gift card system for refunds in lieu of cash thereby assuring that the customer will spend the funds at their store.

A charity gift card allows the gift giver to make a charitable donation and the gift recipient to choose a charity that will receive the donation.

Gift cards can also be country-specific, and can be used to access USA-specific programming and media when outside the United States.

Mobile and virtual gift cards

An app store gift card display in a shop App Store Gift Card by Zihexin.jpg
An app store gift card display in a shop

Mobile gift cards are delivered to mobile phones via email or SMS, and phone apps allow users to carry only their cell phone.

Virtual gift cards are delivered via email to the recipient, the benefits being that they cannot be physically lost and that the consumer does not has to spend the additional time needed to buy a physical gift card in a brick and mortar store making it more convenient. Gift cards of this type can also be purchased quicker, which is especially attractive if an gifting occasion is on the horizon.

Other companies have introduced virtual gift cards that users redeem on their smartphones. As the merchant is not involved in the loop, it is considered a cash transfer rather than a traditional gift card.

Virtual Visa Gift Cards are global as they permit your recipient to in a split second believer their cash to alternate money. No long queues or confused methodology. The incredible thing about picking Virtual Visa Gift Cards is that your recipient likewise has the alternative to get a physical card instead of a virtual one. On the off chance that there is each any disarray, it can without much of a stretch be helped. In this way, the Virtual Visa Gift Card assists you in getting your rewards easily.. [10]

Gift card collecting

Gift cards can have many different designs, including for, holidays, special occasions, sports teams, cartoons, and more. Some hardcore collectors collect different variations of each card, and or prefer where the pin number is not scratched off. Even more desirable are brand new unused gift cards even ones still attached to the retail backers. Most gift cards are plastic, some variances include clear plastic, shaped cards, and paperboard cards. Recently most Starbucks and Chipotle gift cards are now paperboard instead of plastic. A partial list of popular retailers with collectors who have released gift cards worldwide with many different designs and or variations include:

Pitfalls

It has been argued that holiday giving destroys value due to mismatching gifts. [11] The most efficient way to keep value in gifting would be to give cash; however, this is socially acceptable only within limits. Gift cards, to a degree, may overcome this problem but have certain pitfalls. Some feel that the absence of the thought of selecting a specific gift makes a gift card a worse choice than a poorly executed but individual gift. [12] New products in the gift card industry are evolving to tackle this "impersonal" pitfall of gift cards; new services launched by some service providers allows for customization and personalization of gift cards. [13]

Gift cards have been criticized for the issuers ability to set rules that are detrimental to the purchaser or card recipient. For example, gift cards may be subject to an expiry date, administrative fees, restrictions on use, and absence of adequate protection in case of fraud or loss. [2] Over time fees may render the value of a gift card zero. However, these issues have been addressed in recent years in some jurisdictions. In the United States, many jurisdictions limit or prohibit all fees or expiration dates for gift cards. Furthermore, because of the negative impact on sales that such policies can have, most merchants have adopted and even advertise a no fee, no expiration policy for their gift cards, whether or not state laws require it. In 2011, an estimated 2.5% of gift cards were subject to an expiration date and 2.7% to post sale fees. [14]

A quarter of gift card recipients still have not spent gift cards a year after receiving them, according to a Consumer Reports survey, and a majority of people say they end up spending more than the value of the card once they get to the store. [15]

In the event of the bankruptcy of the issuing retailer, the outstanding value on gift cards is considered unsecured debt, and as such gift cards may become valueless. [15] If the company intends to continue trading, gift cards may be honoured even in bankruptcy.

Another issue regarding gift cards is the growing concerns from retailers and other businesses about what can be done to prevent gift cards from being exploited by fraudsters. Gift card information can either be stolen from their rightful owners by fraudsters or they can be purchased with stolen credit card information. In recent years, cyber criminals have increased their efforts to take advantage of fraudulent gift cards as they are simple to exploit with automated brute-force bot attacks. [16] The most common form of gift card fraud is committed through the act of stealing card information for activated cards with an existing balance by attacking a retailer's systems which store gift card data. Once a gift card has been compromised, the fraudster will then check the balance through online customer portals before using the funds or reselling on the secondary gift card market. [17]

Redemption rate

Not all gift cards are redeemed. The card may be lost, there may be time decay expiration and fees or complex rules of redemption, or the recipient may not be interested in the store that accepts the card or be under the false assumption that not using it will save money for the giver. It has been estimated that perhaps 10% of cards are not redeemed, amounting to a gain for retailers of about $8 billion in the United States in 2006. [5]

In 2012, over $100 billion in gift cards will be purchased in the United States, where over 20% of those gift cards will go unredeemed or unused. This has amassed a large opportunity in the secondary market, similar to the secondary ticket market in the early 2000s. Some companies have created a business in the secondary gift card market that allow consumers to sell their unused gift cards or buy discounted gift cards to their favorite brands. This has helped their users recoup their share of some $55 million per day that goes unredeemed in the United States every year, by turning their unused gift cards into cash.[ citation needed ]

Regulations

Canada

All Canadian provinces have legislations passed to ban expiry dates and fees collected on gift cards. [18] However, provincial gift card legislations do not apply to sectors that are regulated under federal laws. For example, gift cards that resemble credit cards i.e. with American Express, MasterCard, or Visa branding and phone cards are regulated by the federal government. Under the federal Prepaid Payment Products Regulations, effective 1 May 2014, federally regulated gift cards may only charge maintenance fees under certain conditions and may not set an expiry date for funds on those cards. [19]

United States

In the past, uniform standards concerning gift cards did not exist. This was set to change as an addendum to the Credit CARD Act of 2009 directs the federal government to create consumer-friendly standards pertaining to gift cards. [20] Most notably, the new regulations prohibit retailers from setting expiration dates unless they are at least 5 years after the card's date of issue or the date on which funds were last added to the card. In addition, retailers are no longer able to assess dormancy, inactivity, or service fees unless the card has been inactive for at least 12 months, and if fees are added after that period, the details of such fees must be clearly disclosed on the card. Additionally, retailers are unable to levy more than one fee per month. The new provisions took effect on 22 August 2010. [21]

Open loop cards are governed by rules of the Comptroller of the Currency; however, oversight has been criticized. [2] Closed loop gift cards are subject to rules set by different state regulations, and issuing authorities vary widely in the rules they set for the consumer. [2] Moreover, rules can be changed by the issuer without notifying the consumer. [8] [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

A debit card is a plastic payment card that can be used instead of cash when making purchases. It is similar to a credit card, but unlike a credit card, the money is immediately transferred directly from the cardholder's bank account when performing any transaction.

EFTPOS Type of electronic payment system

Electronic funds transfer at point of sale is an electronic payment system involving electronic funds transfers based on the use of payment cards, such as debit or credit cards, at payment terminals located at points of sale. EFTPOS technology originated in the United States in 1981 and was adopted by other countries. In Australia and New Zealand, it is also the brand name of a specific system used for such payments; these systems are mainly country-specific and do not interconnect.

Telephone card

A telephone card, calling card or phonecard for short, is a credit card-size plastic or paper card, used to pay for telephone services. It is not necessary to have the physical card except with a stored-value system; knowledge of the access telephone number to dial and the PIN is sufficient. Standard cards which can be purchased and used without any sort of account facility give a fixed amount of credit and are discarded when used up; rechargeable cards can be topped up, or collect payment in arrears. The system for payment and the way in which the card is used to place a telephone call vary from card to card.

Stored-value card

A stored-value card (SVC) is a payment card with a monetary value stored on the card itself, not in an external account maintained by a financial institution. This means no network access is required by the payment collection terminals as funds can be withdrawn and deposited straight from the card. Like cash, payment cards can be used anonymously as the person holding the card can use the funds. They are an electronic development of token coins and are typically used in low-value payment systems or where network access is difficult or expensive to implement, such as parking machines, public transport systems, closed payment systems in locations such as ships or within companies.

Charge card A card that enables the cardholder to make purchases

A charge card is a card that enables the cardholder to make purchases which are paid for by the card issuer. The cardholder is obligated to repay the debt to the card issuer in full by the due date, usually on a monthly basis, or be subject to late fees and restrictions on further card use. Charge cards are typically issued without spending limits, but credit cards usually have a specified credit limit that the cardholder may not exceed. Most charge cards are business and corporate charge cards, not personal charge cards. Charge cards are issued to customers with good or excellent credit score.

Coupon a document, paper or electronic, to provide a discount on goods or services

In marketing, a coupon is a ticket or document that can be redeemed for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product.

Scrip Any substitute for legal tender or currency

A scrip is any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit. Scrips have been created for payment of employees under truck systems, and for use in local commerce at times when regular currency was unavailable, for example in remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in wartime. Besides company scrip, other forms of scrip include land scrip, vouchers, token coins such as subway tokens, IOUs, arcade tokens and tickets, and points on some credit cards.

flybuys (Australia)

flybuys is an Australian loyalty program owned and operated by Coles and Wesfarmers, with the main participating retail outlets being Coles Supermarkets, Coles Express, Kmart, Liquorland, First Choice Liquor and Target stores.

Visa Debit

Visa Debit is a major brand of debit card issued by Visa in many countries around the world. Numerous banks and financial institutions issue Visa Debit cards to their customers for access to their bank accounts. In many countries the Visa Debit functionality is often incorporated on the same plastic card that allows access to ATM and any domestic networks like EFTPOS or Interac.

Payment card Card issued by a financial institution that can be used to make a payment

Payment cards are part of a payment system issued by financial institutions, such as a bank, to a customer that enables its owner to access the funds in the customer's designated bank accounts, or through a credit account and make payments by electronic funds transfer and access automated teller machines (ATMs). Such cards are known by a variety of names including bank cards, ATM cards, MAC, client cards, key cards or cash cards.

Debit card cashback is a service offered to retail customers whereby an amount is added to the total purchase price of a transaction paid by debit card and the customer receives that amount in cash along with the purchase. Debit card cashback is offered either by various banks only to some card holders or by companies like VISA, Mastercard or American Express. For example, a customer purchasing $18.99 worth of goods at a supermarket might ask for twenty dollars cashback. They would pay a total of $38.99 with their debit card and receive $20 in cash along with their goods.

NETS (company)

Network for Electronic Transfers or more commonly known as NETS; is a Singaporean electronic payment service provider founded in 1985 by a consortium of local banks to establish the debit network and drive the adoption of electronic payments in Singapore. It is owned by DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB).

Contactless payment

Contactless payment systems are credit cards and debit cards, key fobs, smart cards, or other devices, including smartphones and other mobile devices, that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication for making secure payments. The embedded integrated circuit chip and antenna enable consumers to wave their card, fob, or handheld device over a reader at the point of sale terminal. Contactless payments are made in close physical proximity, unlike mobile payments which use broad-area cellular or WiFi networks and do not involve close physical proximity.

Interchange fee

Interchange fee is a term used in the payment card industry to describe a fee paid between banks for the acceptance of card-based transactions. Usually for sales/services transactions it is a fee that a merchant's bank pays a customer's bank ; and for cash transactions the interchange fee is paid from the issuer to acquirer, often called reverse interchange.

An incentive program is a formal scheme used to promote or encourage specific actions or behavior by a specific group of people during a defined period of time. Incentive programs are particularly used in business management to motivate employees and in sales to attract and retain customers. Scientific literature also refers to this concept as pay for performance.

Credit card card for financial transactions from a line of credit

A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) to enable the cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services based on the cardholder's promise to the card issuer to pay them for the amounts plus the other agreed charges. The card issuer creates a revolving account and grants a line of credit to the cardholder, from which the cardholder can borrow money for payment to a merchant or as a cash advance.

A decoupled debit card is a debit card in the US that is not issued by, and not tied to, any particular retail financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. This is based on the ability in the US ACH Network payment system to make an electronic payment from any bank or credit union without needing to use a card issued by the bank or credit union. A third party, such as a retailer, can create a decoupled debit card which will use this system to make a payment from the customer's checking account. They may do this as part of a loyalty scheme or to reduce their own debit card processing costs.

Alternative payments refers to payment methods that are used as an alternative to credit card payments. Most alternative payment methods address a domestic economy or have been specifically developed for electronic commerce and the payment systems are generally supported and operated by local banks. Each alternative payment method has its own unique application and settlement process, language and currency support, and is subject to domestic rules and regulations.

Listia

Listia is a free online marketplace and mobile app for trading goods between individuals without using money. The platform has a system known as Listia credits to facilitate the trades. Users earn credits for giving away items they no longer need and can then use credits to get items that other users have listed. The marketplace uses an auction system where users bid on each other's items until the auction ends and the highest bidder wins. The user who listed the item then arranges for a pickup or ships the item directly to the winner.

Apple Pay Mobile payment and digital wallet service

Apple Pay is a mobile payment and digital wallet service by Apple Inc. that allows users to make payments in person, in iOS apps, and on the web using Safari. It is supported on the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac. It digitizes and can replace a credit or debit card chip and PIN transaction at a contactless-capable point-of-sale terminal. It does not require Apple Pay-specific contactless payment terminals; it works with any merchant that accepts contactless payments. It adds two-factor authentication via Touch ID, Face ID, PIN, or passcode. Devices wirelessly communicate with point of sale systems using near field communication (NFC), with an embedded secure element (eSE) to securely store payment data and perform cryptographic functions, and Apple's Touch ID and Face ID for biometric authentication.

References

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