Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gift Cards

Sometimes, Guests pay with gift cards. Not just Target gift cards (which are a post for another time), but gift cards provided by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.

This is not a good thing.

First of all, when you buy one of these gift cards, the bank actually charges you on top of the amount on the card. So that’s a point to the “con” side of the tally sheet.

Then, there’s the usage. When you get, say, a $25 card, you know it has $25 on it. But when you use part of it, will you remember that you have, say, $4.82?

Well, I hope you do, because if the amount of your card is less than the total cost of your purchase and I don’t know that ahead of time, we’ll have a problem.

Some of these cards want to work as debit cards. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as you have a PIN. But 9 times out of 10, you don’t, and my register doesn’t accept debit cards without PINs.

So we use it as a credit card. Except when the card has less money on it than your total, the register will reject it, just as if you were using a normal credit card and went over your credit limit.

The way around this requires you to know exactly how much you have left on the card. You tell me that amount, and instead of having you insert your card for automatic payment fun, I tell the register that you’re using a card – and how much you’re putting on it. I essentially treat it as if I were going to run the card on my end rather than through the reader.

Which I’ll explain another time. Just trust me on this one.

Ok, so you’ve put your $4.82 toward your purchase, and now it’s time to pay the balance. But wait! You can’t use a credit card, because the register will only accept one credit card and one debit card per purchase.

Complicated, isn’t it?

So what’s the lesson of this story? If you want to give a gift, but you won’t/can’t give an actual gift, and you don’t want to limit your loved ones by giving them store-specific gift cards, but you find cash tacky…

Write them checks. Everyone wins.

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