The Advantages of Buying Gift Cards for Yourself

Much to the chagrin of gift giving purists, preloaded brand-specific cards have become a go-to for many Americans looking to give a present. However some new research reported on by Bob Sullivan at found that the majority of Millennials are actually buying such cards not as gifts for others but for themselves. According to Mercator Advisory Group nearly 60% of young adults reported buying a reloadable gift card for themselves in the past year, which is up from less than 50% in 2015.

So what’s the appeal of purchasing a gift card for yourself? Here are a few theories and tips:

Splurge control and budgeting

One of the best feelings associated with receiving a gift card is being able to purchase whatever you want without it affecting your bank account. Similarly purchasing gift cards for yourself can allow you to budget these types of splurges in order to maintain this guilt-free feeling. For example, say you get a bonus at work — you could use part of that money to purchase gift cards from some of your favorite retailers and restaurants. That way, down the road when you and your significant other are in need of a treat or night out, the money is already set aside for you. It may seem silly but you’d be surprised at the mental lift this plan can provide.

Loyalty rewards refers to this one as “The Starbucks Effect” — a reference to the coffee chain’s Gold Card program that allows frequent visitors to earn free items by accumulating stars. Instead of the traditional punch cards that some businesses have used over the year, Starbucks requires patrons to utilize gift cards in order earn these rewards. This method has been gaining ground in recent years with Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, and many others taking similar approaches to encouraging loyalty.

Bonus offers

Retailers love selling gift cards because it either guarantees that you’ll go be back to their establishment (or that they will cash in if the cards go unused). As a result it’s common for different businesses to offer extra incentives for those purchasing cards. Perhaps a restaurant will offer a $30 gift card for only $25 or maybe a department store will throw in an exclusive free gift when you purchase at least $50 in cards. At the end of the day, if you’re a regular customer of these businesses, it could very well be worth taking advantage of such offers even if you intend on using the gift cards yourself.

Despite the name, gift cards are no longer exclusively for giving. It seems that many young adults have already caught onto this concept but there’s reason for the rest of us to realize it as well. With the ability to budget for some much-needed splurges, earn loyalty perks, and take advantage of free money offers perhaps it’s time that you changed the way you think about gift cards and start buying some for yourself.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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