I occasionally get Visa gift cards. Here is a list of the ways they suck:
- There’s a front end fee.Â It costs a few dollars to buy a Visa gift card. Checks are virtually free.
- The buyer is essentially entering into a financial contract (which they haven’t read cause it’s folded up all tiny-like inside the cardboard thing) on behalf of the recipient. I got a gift card from GreenDot once. Open the package and the damn card’s not even in there! I had to go online, enter a bunch of personal information, and wait for them to MAIL me the card. Then I got charged a monthly fee until I used it up and closed my account. Then, after closing my account, I couldn’t unsubscribe form the mailing list because my account had been closed and I didn’t have access to the site. Grr.
- No debit, ATM, cash advance, balance transfer, or recurring transactions. Not that I use these much, but it would sure be nice to be able to move my money around. Like I could with a check.
- Because I can’t put the money in a bank account (like I could with a check), I can’t use it to pay my credit card bill. If I could, then I could be earning rewards points by buying with my real credit card.
- You have to either use or waste the exact balance of the card. If you go over, the transaction is declined.
- Because of the previous point, when making a purchase of more than the amount on the card, you have to tell the cashier to put a specific amount on one card and the rest on another. They may or may not be willing or able to do this.
- All the visa gift cards I’ve seen either expire or carry an inactivity fee.
I think there are probably more reasons they suck, but I’m done for now. Here’s my new brilliant strategy for dealing with Visa gift cards: I’m going to use Visa gift cards to buy store gift cards for myself.
“What?” you ask. “That’s silly.”
Au contraire, my dear reader. Here is a list of the ways store gift cards (presuming it’s somewhere I’d actually shop) are infinitely better:
- Gift cards cost exactly what they’re worth in the store. No activation fee.
- Many gift card systems are built to detect card balance and automatically handle multi-card transactions. With Starbucks and Target gift cards, I don’t feel at all bad handing them three cards with $0.98 each, followed by a credit card, because it’s so easy. They just swipe or scan it and it updates the total. I don’t even have to know how much is on the card.
- Because of the above, that last $3.17 doesn’t get wasted.
- If I don’t use the whole card, I get a receipt telling me how much is left on the card.
- I’ve been noticing that more recently, most gift cards I’ve seen boast having no inactivity fee and never expiring.
- Some stores will actually give you cash back if there are only a few dollars left on the card.
So that’s my strategy. I’m going to buy myself store gift cards with Visa gift cards, and get on with my life. No use wasting time being frustrated or paying fees and bugging friends by trying to set up some scheme to get the value into my PayPal account.
I’m going to be grateful instead of annoyed when I get them :)