Gift Certificates vs. Gift Cards

Gift certificates have been the standard for many small businesses throughout the years.  As technology continues to advance, some of the options once only available for large retailers are trickling their way to mom and pop shops.

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What is the difference between a gift certificate and a gift card?

A gift certificate is traditionally printed on paper or a slightly thicker cardstock which is susceptible to significant wear and tear.  Gift cards are printed on a plastic surface which is significantly more durable. 

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After a sale, an employee will hand write on a gift certificate the amount.  This amount is typically used in one visit, however some businesses offer use over multiple visits.  There are two ways to offer multiple visit usage; you can either offer a new gift certificate each visit redeemable for the new amount or write the remaining amounts on the original certificate after each use.  Gift cards have the option of either having a face value (which does not require tracking through a point of sale system) or a reloadable card (will be tracked through a Point of Sale (POS) system).  There is much less room for error if the cards are put through a POS system or a one-time use face value card than if an employee handwrites the new amount.

Gift cards will generally have a barcode or magnetic stripe to transfer the information into your POS system.  This gives the opportunity to track the cards that have been sold.  Gift certificates will occasionally have a barcode or a number printed, however most will simply have the value written on them.  Without a POS system to process the gift, you will be unable to track valuable data.

I currently offer gift certificates, why should I switch to gift cards?

Gift cards are a option for those wanting to go green as it is able to be reloaded and is reusable, while gift certificates are thrown away immediately after use.  The material used to print many gift cards is a highly filled polyolefin blend that is currently being recycled into general use bulk plastics such as plastic lumber, park benches and industrial signs.

Businesses have noticed a significant increase in sales after switching from gift certificates to gift cards.  Many attribute this to the convenience and durability of a gift card.  Customers will tend to carry their gift cards in their wallet for convenience and the price of having that mini billboard in your clients wallet at all times is priceless!

With so many options available, gift cards are able to offer a design that will truly match the mood of your occasion.  New options are becoming available every day, from clear to silver and gold stock and with a full design staff, has the resources to come up with something truly one of a kind.

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What data can I get from gift cards?

Through your POS system, you will be able to track the current balance of individual cards.  You will be able to utilize the data to remind customers that they have gift cards with balances remaining because people will typically spend 60% more than the value of their gift card.

You will also be able to track the frequency of use on your gift card software.  This is handy information if you would like to market to people that haven’t shopped in a while or to thank those that are your biggest shoppers.

By offering multiple designs based off of occasion, you can track the trends of what your gift cards are purchased for.  With this information you will be able to create entire campaigns around those that are working as well as reflect and redefine those that aren’t.


Now is the time to help you make the switch.  If you don’t have a Point of Sale system, we can get you started out with face value cards so that you can see the increase in sales yourself!

See your design on plastic, for free!