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Why are gift cards so popular when they have some major disadvantages compared to plain old cash or checks?

Asked by jca (27942 points ) December 16th, 2012

Everyone gives gift cards now (including myself, sometimes). A friend of mine describes it as “holidays have become the exchanging of the gift cards.” However, when you think about it, gift cards have a few major disadvantages: you have to keep track of them (where you keep them, how much is left on them, if and when they expire), if you lose them you’re totally shit out of luck, and they’re only good for the store/restaurant/establishment that they’re specified for, unless you get a credit card gift card (I saw Master Card gift cards in a supermarket the other day, and when I read the fine print, it said ”$4.95 activation fee” which to me means “never mind.”).

When you just give cash/check as a gift, it can be used anywhere, any time, simple. However, cash and checks are given infrequently now, while gift cards are so very popular. Why do you think that is so?

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