Gift cards seem like they’d be a great solution to the problem of what to buy a bar or bat mitzvah child. On the surface, such cards seem to be a very personal gift. If you want to buy the person a book, but don’t know what she or he would like, you buy a card from a national chain, right? They buy a book, it is a gift from you. However, it turns out that there are problems that can arise with gift cards.
Throughout the year, I meet with invitation clients planning a bar or bat mitzvah, and have planned them myself, as well, so I’ve heard many tales of gift woes.
Here are some of the problems that have cropped up with gift cards. Most important, beware that some cards do not maintain their value. They are set to decrease in value with time since purchase or activation. Hidden fees and actual decreases may be part of the card agreement you enter into on its purchase. That’s the worst.
But there are other problems, as well. In my case, I found that it wasn’t so easy to have the correct card/gift certificate in the purse or pocket when I found myself in a store. Also, consider whether the person lives near the store the card is from. Even a small, local place could be a problem: the card might have an inconvenient expiration date or the store might go out of business before the person gets to the store with the gift card in hand.
There is also the chance that the store won’t have anything the person wants. I remember once receiving a card for a major national toy store chain. Finally getting to the store, I was dismayed at the quality of the toys, didn’t findanything to buy and eventually gave the gift card to a charity.
While a check might seem less personal, it isn’t so bad to give a check or cash if you don’t have a physical gift to give. It gives the recipient much more flexibility and increases the chance that the money will be spent on something of long-term value.