Think a gift card is too impersonal?
Create your own.
A holiday study conducted by Deloitte & Touche
USA in September found that gift cards are a top choice for consumers.
Of those who responded, 66 percent say they are planning to buy
a gift card this year, though 22 percent of those surveyed said
they wouldn't give gift cards because they consider them too impersonal.
For those who want to give a more special gift, there
are now several options for creating one's own gift card, complete
with message and design.
cards were increasingly popular, but online retailers struggled with how to deliver
it properly once the gift card was purchased," says Jeff Keller, chief customer
officer of Arroweye Solutions, a company that provides gift services to retailers.
"A gift is complete when a card is included, so we designed technology to
do that and launched an online greeting-card site."
was Cardways.com, which
allows a customer to create personalized greeting cards and gift cards by uploading
one's own photograph.
"Gift card research at the time showed that the
only drawback was people thought they were impersonal," Keller
says. "We realized we could do something fundamentally better:
Combine the greeting card and gift card with on-demand production.
We think we took an impersonal item and made it highly personalized.
"We process the order and produce it within 24
hours of placing the order online and put it in first-class mail,
or express, if you choose," he says. "The greeting card
comes with a stamp and an elegant-looking envelope."
The greeting card with the gift card inside can be
sent directly to the recipient or to the gift-giver. The cost of
this personalized gift card is $4.50 per card, plus the value of
the gift card.
Personalized gift cards aren't only for the holidays.
"Consumers are increasingly accumulating digital photos and
looking for new ways to use them," says Keller. "We've
done pictures of homes, families, pets."
On the Cardways.com Web site, there are guidelines
for photos -- meaning the company can reject something it thinks
is in poor taste.
"Most people are on their good behavior,"
says Keller. "We've been doing this for five years and haven't
had any problems. If the photo is on a gift card, you have to remember
that it will be handed over to the retailer. A sense of decorum
Currently, Cardways.com offers gift cards from retailers
such as Circuit City, ebags.com, CompUSA and Linens 'n Things. Keller
says the company is adding more retailers regularly.
gift-card givers can purchase a gift card, upload a personal photograph,
personalize it with the recipient's name and then pick up the card
at the local Wal-Mart an hour later, all through its Digital Photo
Center. The cost is 88 cents, plus the value of the gift card.
If you'd like your recipient to be able to use the
gift more freely, there is an open-loop Visa-branded card available
for customization. (An open-loop card can be used anywhere the credit
card is accepted; a closed-loop card can be used only at the retailer
that issued the card.)
Givers of open-loop cards should be aware that co-branded
gift cards carry fees and expiration dates, unlike most closed-loop
cards. (See the detailed 2006
Gift Card Study for specific information on the terms for co-branded
allows buyers to create their own Visa-branded cards with a choice
of design and a message for each recipient embossed on each card.
The fees are $4 per card, plus value of the card from
$25 to $500, and processing fees of $5.95 to load $25 to $250; $7.95
to load $251 to $500. Cards can be used wherever Visa is accepted
but cannot be reloaded and cannot be used at ATMs.
Cards are sent to recipients with disclosure
information. There is a 12-month expiration date on the cards,
and dormancy fees of $2.50 (called "maintenance fees")
per month are charged after six months. Once an order is placed
online, it takes two to three days to create the card. The card
is then sent via first-class U.S. mail either to you or to the recipient.