Gift Cards Are More Thoughtful Than Giving Cash, and Still Offer a Little Wiggle Room

·14 min read

When it comes to choosing a gift for a loved one, a coworker or someone who has recently helped you out, the pressure of finding a personalized, thoughtful and appropriate gift can prove a rather difficult task. And while at one point in time, gift cards fell into the same rather lazy category as gifting cash, things are now a little bit different. Thanks to their much wider availability, with everything from travel to food and entertainment to experiences, the best gift cards are now a great last-minute gift idea or handy way to show you thought about what to get, but still wanted to offer a little wiggle room at the same time.

The best gift cards are a great option if you want to thank someone even if you don’t particularly know them well. Gift cards also make it easy to sidestep any difficult interactions and give people the opportunity to help others without it looking like a handout. If you have a friend who is going through a difficult time financially, handing them a check or Venmo-ing them some money could hurt the relationship, but providing them with a gift card to a grocery store or a favorite restaurant could help ease their financial burden while keeping the friendship intact.

How to Choose the Right Gift Card

Here are some considerations to think about when it comes to choosing a gift card for your recipient. It’s important to remember that the right card isn’t the same for everyone, and it is worth thinking about what’s best before committing to your choice of gift card.

  • Choose something that is appropriate for the recipient. If you don’t know your child’s teacher well, skip a gift card to your favorite fishing store and go with something more generic, like an Amazon gift card.

  • Always attach a thoughtful and personalized message with a gift card.

  • If possible, include a gift receipt with the gift card in case the receiver loses the physical card.

  • Make sure you choose a gift card the recipient can and wants to actually use. Money to spend at a fancy restaurant is great, but not if the recipient lives in another state or doesn’t really enjoy eating out.

  • Choose an amount which is suited for the situation. A $5 Starbucks card isn’t appropriate for a wedding gift, but a $150 AirBnB gift card can be a big help towards the cost of a honeymoon.

  • If possible, cover the activation fee on a gift card by adding an additional amount or simply opt for cards with no fees.

Below you’ll find our selection of the best gift cards available online. Most options can be purchased as physical, sent-in-the-mail cards or as e-gift cards (which are especially handy if you need a last-minute gift). We’ve also covered pretty much every gift card aspect, from food and clothing to home furniture and flights. In short, we’re confident there’s a gift card option to suit everyone.

1. Amazon

BEST OVERALL

There isn’t much that you can’t buy on Amazon, from exercise equipment to groceries, to clothing and household items. An Amazon gift card gives receivers the freedom to choose just about any item they’ve had their eye or put it towards entertainment, including Amazon Prime videos, music or titles from the Amazon Kindle Store, which is packed with thousands of e-books. Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member, your gift card can be delivered in hours, making for an excellent last-minute option. Available in any amount between $1 and $2,000, an Amazon gift card is one of the most versatile options available in the gift card market.

Amazon Gift Card
Amazon Gift Card


Buy: Amazon $15.00

2. Giving Good Feeding America

HAS A PHILANTHROPIC ANGLE

If you are worried that gift cards don’t have enough of a thoughtful angle, we recommend checking out one of the charitable options from GiftCards.com. The site has several gift cards that come with a donation to a specific charity, including Feeding America, Wounded Warrior, St. Jude’s and Make-A-Wish. Three percent of the total amount of the Giving Good card will be donated to the charity specified on the card. The donation amount is matched by Blackhawk Network, which means the receiver will still get the full amount initially loaded onto the gift card.

Giving Good Feeding America Gift Card
Giving Good Feeding America Gift Card


Buy: Giving Good Feeding America Gift Card $25 and up

3. Netflix

FOR THE STREAMER

Give someone a seemingly endless supply of TV shows and movies with a gift card to Netflix. Gift receivers can Netflix and chill by applying the gift card to their current Netflix account or starting a new account for free. The gift card is available in $15, $30, $60 and $100 increments and users don’t need a credit card in order to make use of their Netflix gift card.

netflix gift card
netflix gift card


Buy: Netflix $15 and up

4. DoorDash

FOR A NIGHT OFF FROM COOKING

Being able to send someone a meal is a great gift option that is appropriate for several situations. Whether you are looking for a gift for exhausted new parents, want to help ease the burden of someone who has just experienced the loss of a loved one, or you want to celebrate a friend’s exciting news by buying them dinner from afar, a DoorDash gift card allows users to enjoy their favorite restaurant from the comfort of their own home. Support local restaurants, surprise your employees who are working from home with a ‘catered lunch,’ or gift a college student a week of pizzas with a gift card that can be used at just about any restaurant.

door dash gift card online
door dash gift card online


Buy: DoorDash $15 and up

5. Apple

LUXURY PICK

Purchasing an Apple product is never a budget-friendly affair, so any form of financial helping hand is always going to be appreciated. No matter whether your recipient is saving up for the new iPhone or looking to upgrade their MacBook, whatever denomination of gift card you present them is sure to be well received. Other products and services accessible with this Apple gift card include everything on the iTunes library, AirPods and the thousands of accessories available for each of Apple’s various products.

apple gift card
apple gift card


Buy: Apple $15 and up

6. Starbucks

FOR ANYBODY AND EVERYBODY

Perhaps you don’t really know the person you’re buying for particularly well, or you got someone from the office you don’t really talk to in the secret Santa draw, whatever the case, a Starbucks gift card is always a solid backup plan. Who wouldn’t be able to use one? Gift cards are available both in electronic mail and physical forms, making it easy to choose whichever suits your needs best. Recipients can then use the card’s value at any participating store across the country or Starbuck.com to enjoy a beverage, treat or piece of Starbucks merchandise.

starbucks gift card
starbucks gift card


Buy: Starbucks $15 and up

7. Flightgift

FOR THE TRAVELER

Travel has seen a massive decrease since the onset of the pandemic, but when it is once again safe to fly, a gift card that can be used on any major airline makes an excellent gift for the traveler in your life. Gift newlyweds a card that can be used towards their delayed honeymoon or help a friend fly home for the holidays with a gift card that can be used on hundreds of major airlines. Flightgift will send the receiver a gift card that looks like a real plane ticket, acting as a fun reminder that someday we will all be able to travel safely again.

Flightgift
Flightgift


Buy: Flightgift $25 to $10,000

8. Hotels.com

FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS A PLACE TO STAY

Like the airline industry, hotels have also seen a dramatic decrease in business since the onset of the pandemic. Although many people are still hesitant to leave their homes, and rightly so, a gift card to Hotels.com, which can be used at most major hotels, can still make an excellent gift in 2021. The gift card can be saved for future vacations when travel is once again permitted and safe or it can be used by someone who needs a place to isolate after traveling for work purposes. For anyone who needs to get away but wants to do so safely, a local hotel can also offer a staycation with fewer risks than international travel.

Hotels.com
Hotels.com


Buy: Hotels.com $25 and up

9. Wayfair

BEST FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Know someone who has recently moved into a new house and is in need of a new sofa or bed? Or could simply do with a financial leg-up to invest in some new home decor? In one of these Wayfair gift cards, the recipient will have access to Wayfair’s impressive range of home furniture and furnishings, including items like pillows, lighting, rugs and even kitchen appliances. Additionally, these versatile cards make great wedding, baby shower and graduation gifts, too.

best gift cards wayfair
best gift cards wayfair


Buy: Wayfair $20 and up

10. Gift of College

FOR THE STUDENT

For the student in your life, a gift card that can help them save for their education is a great way to set them up for a successful future that is (hopefully) debt-free. With a Gift of College gift card, receivers can set up an account that makes it easy for friends, family and employers to contribute to any 529 college savings. Start a student’s post-secondary career off with a gift card that can be purchased in $25 to $200 increments and help them focus on their classes, not their student debt.

Gift of College
Gift of College


Buy: Gift of College $25 to $200

11. Nike

FOR THE SPORTS PLAYER

Give your friends access to footwear, shirts, pants and everything else available at Nike.com, Converse.com and Nike and Converse-owned retail locations across America. If they’re into sport or just love stylish casual wear, it won’t take them long to empty the gift card, which can be charged with one of several different values between $25 and $250. Additionally, if you want to make your physical gift card that extra bit special, there are 12 different designs to choose from, including a rather unique shoe-shaped option.

best gift cards nike
best gift cards nike


Buy: Nike $25 and up

12. Stockpile

FOR THE INVESTOR

Need a gift for someone who loves to invest? How about a gift for the person in your life who only appears to shop at one store? Instead of getting them a typical gift card to their favorite shopping destination, make them a stockholder with a gift card from Stockpile. Customers can choose from a huge list of major companies, including Coca-Cola, Netflix, Under Armour, Tesla, and Apple. Customers can also include an open gift card that allows receivers to choose their own stock. Buy $25, $50, or $100 increments and gift someone small ownership in a major company.

Stockpile
Stockpile


Buy: Stockpile $25, $50 or $100

13. Chipotle

FOR THE FAST FOODY

If we’re honest, there’s plenty of available options when it comes to gifting someone fast food. We just chose Chipotle Gift Card because we’re more partial to build-your-own burritos, rice bowls and other Mexican dishes over the other choices. However, if you’ve got a friend who loves Burger King’s burgers or a family member who can’t get enough Taco Bell, there are gift cards for pretty much every fast-food chain across America. Another handy element of this Chipotle Gift Card is that it’s good for both in-store and online order redemption.

chipotle gift card
chipotle gift card


Buy: Chipotle $15 and up

14. Spotify

FOR THE MUSIC LOVER

If you know someone who loves all kinds of music and is forever listening to something new, why not gift them access to a year’s worth of more music than you could listen to in a lifetime with this Spotify Annual Gift Card. For $99 (which is paying the price of 10 months and getting 12), your recipient will receive one year’s access to millions of songs and thousands of podcasts, all of which can be enjoyed via online, on-demand play or offline, wherever they like (once downloaded to a device). Furthermore, their music enjoyment is completely ad-free and of high audio quality, making for a more enjoyable listening experience.

spotify gift card
spotify gift card


Buy: Spotify $10 and up

15. Goldbelly

FOR THE FOODIE

For the foodie in your life, a gift card to Goldbelly means the chance to sample the restaurants, bakeries and breweries they’ve been drooling over. Goldbelly makes it possible for customers to choose from hundreds of restaurants across the US and have items shipped to them directly. Know someone who has always wanted to try Junior’s Cheesecake from the famous New York bakery? Gift them a Goldbelly gift card and get a fresh cheesecake to enjoy without hopping on a plane.

Goldbelly
Goldbelly


Buy: Goldbelly $25 to $200

16. Panera Bread

FOR THE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS EATER

Thanks to their wide range of delicious salads, soups and sandwiches, a Panera Bread Gift Card is a great gift idea for anyone who likes to dine with their health in mind. Cardholders can also take advantage of Panera’s welcoming in-store environment which includes free WiFi, making the gift card a particularly good option for students or remote workers. Additionally, they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have plenty of bready and sweeter treats available if you just want to indulge.

panera bread gift card
panera bread gift card


Buy: Panera Bread $10 and up

17. Groupon

AN EXPERIENCE GIFT CARD

For a gift card that can be used for a physical good or an experience, we recommend Groupon. The destination for thrifty and smart shoppers, Groupon offers deals on everything from restaurants to spas, to house cleaning services and items like clothes, exercise equipment and even jewelry. Whether you want a gift for someone who loves to support local or lives to travel, Groupon has a deal for everyone.

Groupon
Groupon


Buy: Groupon $25 and up

18. Bass Pro Shops

FOR THE OUTDOORSPERSON

Bass Pro Shops gift cards are available in either physical or electronic forms. Possible amounts which can be added onto the cards range from $10 to $500 dollars. You can also choose from a range of fun and outdoor activity-inspired designs to add that little extra touch to your gift. What makes it such a great option for the outdoor enthusiast in your life is the fact that they can choose to use the balance in person at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s US retail stores or online at http://www.basspro.com or http://www.cabelas.com. If you’re not familiar with Bass Pro Shops, you can find everything for hunting, fishing, shooting, boating and a range of other outdoor activities, too.

best gift cards bass pro shops
best gift cards bass pro shops


Buy: Bass Pro Shops $10 and up

19. Best Buy

BEST FOR TECH LOVER

TVs, Mirrorless cameras, projectors, tablets, video games consoles and headphones are just a small sample of the plethora of electronics that people can spend their Best Buy gift card balance on. The cards are available in both electronic and physical forms, which can be particularly handy if you’re short on time. Gift card values start at $15 and are limited to $500. They can be redeemed at any retail location across the country or online at BestBuy.com. Recipients may also be able to use them for BestBuy merchandise or services, including some Magnolia Home Theater and Geek Squad-related services. Handily, these cards also have no expiration date and no hidden additional fees.

best buy gift card
best buy gift card


Buy: Best Buy $15 and up

20. Sony Playstation

FOR THE GAMER

If you know someone who has been lucky enough to get their hands on a PS5, or even still loves spending hours on their PS4, a Sony Playstation Gift Card is sure to be a winner. These gift cards can be used on anything from the PlayStation Store, which includes games, add-ons, subscriptions and other downloadable content. There’s also a range of values to choose from, starting at $10 and working up to $100, meaning you won’t have a problem sticking to your person-specific budget.

playstation gift card
playstation gift card


Buy: Sony Playstation $10 and up

21. Fandango

FOR THE FILM BUFF

What’s great about a Fandango gift card is that it gives the recipient access to movie tickets at thousands of movie theaters across the country. This versatility makes it possible to redeem the gift card for a viewing at a theater local to them, or even use it when they’re away from home. The card can be redeemed on movie tickets and associated convenience fees, including purchase or rental of content on Fandango’s numerous websites. However, it is worth noting that these gift cards cannot be used at box offices for walk-in purchases.

fandango gift card
fandango gift card


Buy: Fandango $25 and up

22. Darden Restaurants

BEST FOR DINNER DATES

If you know someone who loves eating out, but aren’t quite confident enough to fully commit to the exact restaurant they would like to eat at, hedge your bets with one of these Darden Restaurants Gift Cards. These gift cards give you access to over 1,800 restaurants across all 50 states and include numerous restaurant types, including but not exclusive to Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House and Seasons 52. Furthermore, recipients aren’t limited to in-restaurant dining, either, as the cards can be used to cover online to-go food, too.

darden gift card
darden gift card


Buy: Darden Restaurants $10 and up

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