Gift Cards be a good idea? No and Yes.
1. It is estimated that $2 billion in gift cards will go unused this year! I admit that I am an offender. I am an avid couponer and have a very good system of storing coupons, and gift cards so they get used. Yet, I still have one for a resturant, over an hour away that isn't kid friendly. I doubt it will ever get used. (I appreciate the thought and effort, it just isn't practical for us.)
2. The problem is cards for places the reciever doesn't frequent. Just because you love a restaurant and think your friend will too, they might just never make it there to use it. Instead, if you really want them to experience it, make a date and take them there. (That way you both win!) If for some reason you need to give a gift card, give it to a store/restaurant you know they love going too.
3. They are just as impersonal as cash. Go ahead and just give the cash, then they can spend it how they want.
4. You will end up spending more this way. You could make, or find a more perfect gift for lots less than you would probably spend on a gift card.
1. The receiver has told you they love that store, or have been eyeing something, and you know your gift card will allow them to finally get it.
2. You are buying the card for yourself. What? If you live on a strict budget, you already know how much you typically will spend at any store. So you can take advantage of Christmas promotions.
3. Using a gift card for stores you already shop can give you rewards. My family loves *Pizza Ranch, they are offering $5 free when you purchase a $50 gift card. Additionally the $$ you spend on the gift card earns you Ranch Rewards resulting in another $5 off your next purchase. In this scenario, we got $60 of buying power for $50. It was also a fundraiser night for a favorite charity, and they earned 10% of the night's proceeds!
3. Using a gift card for stores you already shop can give charities rewards. My church has a gift card buying program called Scrip Cards. The church receives a portion of the proceeds, and they are available every week for commonly shopped stores and restaurants.
Four cons and three pros, if your still not sure, than don't do it. Why throw your money into that $2 billion?
If you receive a gift card, use it ASAP, the longer you hold on to it, the more likely you will forget about it. Better yet, invite the person who gave it to you, time together is my favorite gift of all.
*I am not being compensated to plug Pizza Ranch, we just like eating there and this gift card scenario was really good.