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3 things you should know about giving gift cards

Practical though they may be, giving gift cards to employees, clients or business partners can backfire if you’re not careful. These tips can help you avoid embarrassment or outright disaster.

Before jumping to the conclusion that gift cards are the solution to showing appreciation to your employees, clients or business partners, take a second look at these three common considerations.

  1. If you’re considering giving gift cards to reduce your budget, consider this: While cards offer flexibility and choice, when it comes to budgeting they can backfire. The very nature of a gift card associates the gift with a monetary amount. Give a card with only a nominal redemption value and you look like a cheapskate; give one with too high a value and you’re stretching your budget. (Hint: Above all else, giving anything that looks like money – cash and gift cards – to a client or business partner is a really bad decision. Just don’t do it.)
  2. If you’re thinking of giving gift cards to offer flexibility, think again. Yes, gift cards to big box stores can certainly give your recipients the opportunity to select what they want. However, in times such as these, the recipient most often will opt for a necessity rather than a meaningful item. Thus, the emotional impact of the gift is reduced. Think carefully about which your employees would rather have – financial relief, though fleeting, is powerful whereas a thoughtful gift such as a brand name item is long lasting. Knowing your employees well will help you decide which way to go. (Hint: If you’re not sure, ask. There’s nothing like first-hand information to help you make the right decision.)
  3. If your reason for giving gift cards is convenience, ask yourself what’s convenient for the recipient. While it may be easy for you to order gift cards to give away, redeeming them is not always quite as convenient. Even with federal regulations in place, things like expiration dates and inactivity fees (charged when a card goes unused for a period of time) may eat away at the card’s value. If you choose cards good at only one store or chain, using the card may be a challenge as well. (Hint: If you do decide to give gift cards, you may want to choose an “open loop” card that can be redeemed virtually anywhere.)

When it comes to showing appreciation to your employees, gift cards may well be a good choice. Just make certain to consider all the implications from the recipient’s point of view, not just your own. After all, according to the old adage “it’s better to give than receive” is only true if what you give is truly appreciated by the person you give it to.

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