Online gift certificates allow for convenient shopping at your favorite Internet retailers. They also make for great gifts for your friends and family. Using gift certificates online is about as easy as using them in a traditional store. There are some things that you should be aware before you purchase a gift certificate so that you are fully prepared.
Finding Gift Certificates
If a store has an online presence, you can typically order online gift certificates. You can add them to a larger order, or order just a single certificate. Depending on the vendor, online gift cards may be available for online use only. Additionally, the store may offer a regular gift certificate or card with a special account number you can use to pay for an online order if you decide not to visit your local store.
- Several sites exist that sell nothing but gift certificates. They offer gift cards from a variety of businesses, some online-only and others a mix of online and brick-and-mortar certificates. GiftCertificates.com and GiveAnything.com are a couple of the all-inclusive options. Make sure to check the list of available stores on any site before buying one of these certificates as a gift, though.
- Restaurant.com offers a unique gift certificate service. They act as a clearinghouse for smaller, independent establishments normally unable to offer gift certificates online. You can search by city or region, making it a great way to sample new food in your area.
- If you search for coupon codes before making a purchase, you can usually find a discount, making the transaction even better.
- Gift certificates are a common reward and payment online. You may be able to earn them for posting reviews on a site like Insider Pages or for participating in an online survey. Many points-based reward sites like FreeRide offer a number of gift certificates as rewards for clicking numerous links and signing up for offers online. Make sure to read the terms and conditions of any offer before participating, and weigh the effort required to earn the gift cards against their actual value.
Online gift certificates make great gifts, as long as the recipient has access to a computer and Internet connection. Some people are also more comfortable shopping online than others. If you're unsure, it may be better to give the gift of a certificate you can use at both a local brick-and-mortar store and the online shopping portal of a major retailer.
Using Your Certificates
Online gift certificates are easy to use. First you browse the catalog and create a shopping cart of items like you normally would when ordering online. Then when it comes time to pay, instead of entering your credit card information during checkout, you type in the number on your gift card. Just look for the special space devoted to entering gift certificate codes. If your total purchase is more than the amount of the gift card, you will also need to enter a credit card number.
Online gift certificates come with an expiration date, so make sure you use the entire balance before this deadline. The expiration date should be clearly stated on the gift card or in the email, and if there's any confusion, contact the retailer with your questions.
Some online retailers place limits on the number of gift certificates you can use in a single order. In many cases, it won't matter, but if you give or receive multiple certificates in small denominations, like five dollars, you will want to know if you can use more than one at a time.
Unless you request a paper certificate for gift-giving, online-only gift certificates typically only exist as a code inside an email message. You'll want to be careful not to accidentally delete this email because you won't be able to retrieve your money any more than if you accidentally threw a plastic gift card in the trash.
Gift card customer service is also available online, whether your gift certificate is online or traditional. Many sites allow you to check a gift card balance online, and you can find a customer service email address to send questions or concerns. Some sites allow you to "bank" your gift certificates by typing the account number into the site, ready to use whenever you next make a purchase. This can help you avoid the potential problem of losing a certificate, but you're also putting your trust in the online site's servers. This isn't usually a problem, but some people just prefer to hang on to their own gift certificates.