When close family members give me gifts, it's often in the form of gift cards or pre-paid debit cards. I appreciate their generosity, and I spend the balances eventually, but I think both giver and receiver could be better off if the gift was plain money rather than credit at a store:

  1. I started the new year with 5 gift cards, which is more than can fit in my wallet. I can understand if the gift were a service, e.g. massages, concerts, or lessons. However, most of these cards are for general-purpose retailers, which sell tangible gifts. Half a dozen times this year I've exclaimed "Aah! I forgot to pay with the gift card!"
  2. I stated the new year with 2 pre-paid debit cards. My experience with these things has been poor. They cost the buyer >6% of the value, they get declined for unknown reasons, merchants place holds on the value that can last weeks, and they lack the anti-theft guarantees offered by banks and credit cards.
  3. Some people want to ensure I receive their gift, so they send it certified mail. This costs them money, and costs me time to go to the post office to sign for it.
  4. Economically, cash is more valuable than gift cards, because cash can be spent anywhere.
  5. Gift cards seem to be a cop-out, because they're often preceded by a text message of the form "idk what to get ur so hard to shop for". I reply with a link to my Amazon wish list, which contains a variety of items at any price point, but still the gift cards keep coming.

Is it possible to make it easier on myself without taking away whatever pleasure the givers find in giving me plastic rectangles?

For the purposes of answering, assume that giver and receiver are financially well-off, and that both have access to checking accounts and ATMs.

  • 1
    Your question poses an interesting challenge. As a gift-giver, I want to ensure that my gift is something that the recipient actually wants and can use. However, as a gift-giver, I don't enjoy hearing that "I prefer cash". To me, that's just asking for money which in US culture is frowned upon. I assume you also don't want to be seen as someone who just asks for money? Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 18:45
  • what have you already tried? Have you tried the simple "I am saving up for X, could I have a contribution?"
    – WendyG
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 11:35
  • I'm going to put up yet another question: Could you give us a rough indicator of cultural/geographical background (in other words: where you are from)? Over here (Netherlands) people do give each other money, while in other countries/cultures this is really not done.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 9:33
  • gift cards are a way for the giver to force use into a certain category of buying- this can be desired among givers since gift cards cannot often be used to, for example, buy illegal drugs, other "unapproved" gifts, etc. you mention "both can be better off"- maybe not, if the giver wants to enforce it like I mention.
    – james
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


Have you tried point them to one gift card "retailer"? Amazon have a large variety of types of gift cards plus a selection of "faces" so the person giving it can have a feel they are in control of choosing what you get.

What I told was AFTER occasion I've got a lot of cards (for example 100$ in 10 10$ cards) was same thing you put in second point. Similar value is lost when you try to swap a gift card for cash. You can't sell 25$ for 25$.

So I told everyone

I'm starting a saving account because I save for xxx. Before the next occasion if I won't save the amount myself I would ask you to rather chip in more than gift card.

And 3 weeks before next "gift occasion" I said that the thing I want to buy is not yet funded so please have in mind that you can give me cash or transfer and send me just a postcard.

And in the meantime I mentioned that there is a lot of scamming involved with gift cards (I once personally bought myself a gift card that was later redeemed as fake).


In my experience (I'm from France), people don't like "just offering money". That's why they would give you a gift card rather than just a bank check.

However, I do have family members who gift me bank checks. I never ask them to (so my situation is a little different than yours) but what I have noticed is that there always send a personalized postal card with the check. I once received a check with no postal card and I was very sad about it. Buying a postal card is a gesture who tells the other person "I took the time to buy you something special. I care about you".

This leads me to believe that if you would tell people:

Would you mind buying me a postal card and just a bank check instead of a gift card? Gift cards aren't always easy to use.

This way, the other person as another option that allows them to show their appreciation to you. And if, for them, gift cards don't have more "value" than a nice postal card, they might be happy to change.

I personally find postal card way nicer than gift cards and they might feel the same.


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