Gift Card Buying Tips

Gift cards are very convenient and popular presents to buy at this time of year. However, it is advisable to choose ones that will be useful to the receiver, have fair terms and conditions, and have reasonable fees.

Many people think that gift cards are like cash or credit/debit cards, but they are not. For example, often gift cards can only be used at certain places and only for some types of transactions, may have complex terms and conditions, and there may be significant costs for the buyer.

My top ten tips for gift cards buyers are:

  1. Ensure that the card will suit the recipient. For example will it be easy for the recipient to use online or at a particular store or group of stores, and is it for a relevant product/service?
  2. Check that the terms and conditions are fair and will not be unduly restrictive for the recipient, for example, minimum spends, no change given, or not usable online.
  3. Consider any expiry dates. These are less of a concern now that most gift cards must have a minimum 3 year expiry period. However some cards have the advantage of no expiry period.
  4. Consider E-gift cards which are now widely available and used. They have some advantages over plastic, for example they can be bought and delivered online, are less likely to be misplaced or lost, and can be stored on a phone. However, still check that the terms and conditions and fees/costs are OK.
  5. Check the cost of buying a gift card. These can mount up. For example, there may be a processing or administration fee and if the card will be posted there is likely to be a postage charge.
  6. Remember that if a gift card is bought with a credit card the transaction may be treated as a cash advance for which the credit card issuer is likely to:
    • charge a 2-3% fee
    • charge interest immediately and possibly at a higher rate than for a normal purchase
    • not give rewards points.
    However, if you buy with a credit (or some debit cards) and there are problems using the gift card or with a purchase you may be able to use the card issuer’s “chargeback” service.
  7. To avoid cash advance fees and interest charges, pay with a debit card or cash and to avoid, or reduce the cost of, other fees, look for gift cards that will still suit the intended recipient but do not have any, or only low, fees.
  8. You may be able to buy some gift cards at a discount, for example when you are a member of a club, society or rewards scheme.
  9. In some situations cash may be a better gift because it can be spent anywhere, does not expire, and does not come with any tricky terms and conditions.
  10. Keep the receipt for any cards bought in case recipients have problems using them.

Regarding Point 8: in Queensland, discounted eGift cards may be bought through the RACQ and to cater for such for non vehicle owning people, a special membership is available for something like $26 per year. I suspect the same is available through motoring clubs in other states.

Regarding Point 9: The problem with cash, despite its universality, is that it can be tricky to email to grandkids in a distant place.

As a grandparent of a stack of grandkids, who has been caught out multiple times by buying gifts for grandkids and finding out that they already had that particular toy, eGift cards are terrific, They can go and choose their own gifts and usually enjoy so doing. Accordingly, I usually buy a stack of $50 and one pr two $100 eGift cards at Christmas time, and usually at modest discount.

eGift cards for the oldies from Bunnings are good also because they can be bought well in advance of the date required and Bunnings will email them to the recipient on the day required in a very happy card format.


Good point, but auto clubs, insurance companies, banks, fraternal organisations, some utilities, and organisations ad nauseam all seem to have gift cards for sale at discounts to face value. Some of the ‘card networks’ work well and some are more pain than worth it.

Many people have accounts where gift cards are available at discount and do not realise it.


Sounds like you are a very effective buyer and giver of gift cards.
So, I guess only the main tips applicable to you are those on how to pay for gift cards. As I mentioned in the tips, paying with a credit card can increase the cost and so reduce savings made by buying at a discount from the RACQ or other places.

Like you I only have RACQ Lifestyle membership, in my case because my vehicle is covered for roadside assistance by the manufacturer. However, that membership level still allows me to support the club, get the magazine and obtain discounts on various things (including fuel and gift cards). I used it recently to get a very substantial discount for a visit to Underwater World at Mooloolaba.


Actually, I have been an RACQ member for over 50 years so - a so called “Gold 50” member. So, I get all sorts of discounts and only pay half the normal subscription rate anyway. However, I have gifted a Lifestyle membership which paid for itself immediately when the recipient was able to flash the card at the local dentist for a 10% discount on dental work, and has continued to do so. The Lifestyle membership is a good deal.

Whether or not a credit card incurs a service fee, depends on the credit card. When my bank offered me a “Gold Mastercard” some years ago which had a few extra benefits, which I never actually used, the old adage that you only get what you pay for evidenced itself when organisations selling discounted gift cards added a service charge because it was a gold card which was obviously costing them more in vendor fees. So I scrapped the card in favour of a basic Mastercard and that problem went away.

The added benefit of scrapping the old card was that any organisation that had previously recorded the details of my old card subsequently had incorrect information which meant that any bad guys who hacked their websites could not get any legitimate credit card information relevant to me. Viz, it is probably not such a silly idea to change credit cards every now and then for the sake of online security.

I always pay credit card debts on the day that they are incurred and have not had an overnight debt of any sort since 1992 so I never incur any expense, interest or service fees associated with credit cards anyway. Thus, all I pay is the discounted price of the eGift cards when I do these transactions.

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BTW, as an aside comment, that RACQ “Gold 50” membership that you only get after being a member for over 50 years, carries all sorts of benefits and rewards for loyalty longevity. eg I can get roadside assistance not only in my designated vehicle which applies to anyone who is driving that vehicle but also in any vehicle that I am driving at the time of needing roadside assistance. I have actually used this latter benefit, which actually included the car’s being taken to a repair shop on the back of a truck when it suffered a fault that was not fixable by the mobile service man.


Thanks for that info about that RACQ membership level. I had forgotten about the various levels that apply to all types of membership. I am a Gold member and will have wait a few years to get the added benefits of the Gold 50 level.

Yes, there can be advantages from changing credit card providers. However, this is not possible for some people. For example, it can be very difficult to get a new credit card when you have retired. So, prior to retirement people should review their future needs. For example, if a couple only use one credit card (or cards) in only one person’s name it is worth considering getting another one that is in the other person’s name.


Gift card - good news story.

I am unsure if this is the right place to post my customer service problem (solved) with Woolworths, if not I appologise.

Previously, I complained about customer service at Woolworths (in respect of the company not abiding by its returns policy). After posting on this forum, which I did only because Woolworths’ online complaint/feedback form elicited a reply to the effect of “we are receiving many emails and there will be a delay beyond the usual response time”.

Long story short, after the store manager concerned, Graham and his deputy, Sonia, heard about my experience, they resolved the problem to my satisfaction, with a gift card. Graham also said that if there is ever another problem, that I should go to him or Sonia and forget about the online form.

Sounded like good advice.

This morning, at the same store, on entry, I returned an item, $9, and it was swiftly credited back to the gift card, receipt provided, which still had a small amount on it. For the record, I did not tell the staff member serving me about the gift card’s history.

A few minutes later, after finding three items I wanted to buy, I made my way to the check out and realised I don’t have the card. Not in my bag, not amongst the items I carried and not in any pocket. I clearly dropped it somewhere in the store.
Retracing my steps, with a staff member assisting, the card could not be found.

At the front desk, in conversation with staff, it was apparent that:

(a) The receipt I have from the crediting of $9 a few mins ago unfortunately does not reveal the full gift card number, so “we cannot trace any unauthorised use of the card by someone who may have found it and used it in the last few minutes”;

(b) The original receipt given when the card was issued is also unlikely to reveal the full gift card number, for staff or for me to check transactions; and

(c) There is no facility to put a hold on - or cancel - the card if it indeed lost or stolen. The implication was that the card is treated like cash. This I found odd as the card always requires a PIN to be punched into the check out terminal. If indeed it was “like cash”, why have a PIN at all?

I then saw a fellow with a name badge “Graham” whose name I recognised, but did not meet previously. He is the manager and we spoke on the phone when I had the earlier problem. He asked me to wait a minute while he would make a call. Returning to me after his call, I sensed he was not happy with the solution he was offered. He studied my receipt and, rightly, focused on the value of the return that was credited minutes earlier.

He looked at my three items and said “ok then, I can see on your receipt the return credited on the card; you and a two staff members could not find the card anywhere in the store; you have about $9 worth of goods in your hand, let’s assume you used the card to pay for those, ok?”

I replied “yes thank you. Are you sure”?

He answered, “Yes sure, we’ll fix the paperwork on our end. Have a good day”.

IMHO, I consider this to be outstanding service. Well done Graham! I wish Woolworths many more Grahams.