Do you want a card from one store or a bank-backed card?
A card for a particular merchant can be more personal. But if that merchant (or its convenient locations), go under before your recipient can use the card, it's money wasted.
Some retailers will also let you spend those gift cards at their online site or at sister stores in their corporate family, says Rebekka Rea, assistant director of the Retail Gift Card Association, an industry organization. But others may not, so it pays to ask.
A credit card-branded card is generally good wherever that card is accepted. And in a pinch, your recipient could use the card to pay a bill or buy groceries instead of the intended present.
And it's not always one or the other. Sometimes retailers partner to provide more spending options or create a theme card. For example, several retailers teamed up for a "dinner and a movie" card. With it, the giftee can purchase a meal from a number of related restaurants, and he or she can also buy movie tickets.
"I think that's really fun and different," says Rea.