Don't know what gift to get the person on your list who has it all? As Canadians, more and more we are reaching for gift cards. They make great gifts during the holiday season, for a birthday, or any other notable event.
Gift cards are sold everywhere these days. Grocery stores, gas stations, online. Gift cards are easy and convenient.
They allow the recipient to get exactly what they want and when they want. Not sure what cards to get? Check out the list below with Canada's top gift cards.
What is a gift card?
A gift card is a preloaded swipe card. The funds are placed on the card by the purchaser and can be redeemed almost anywhere until the funds are gone.
The card owner can purchase whatever they want from the issuing store. If the card is widely accepted, it can be used at any store that accepts that brand of card.
Gift cards are typically set up similarly to a credit card. The card is given a specific number, magnetic strip and may also include a tap feature.
These cards come with many of the same security features as credit cards. Gift cards, though, cannot exceed the balance previously placed on the card, and most transactions exceeding the amount on the card will be rejected.
Why do people buy gift cards?
Gift cards serve many purposes. They are not just for those hard-to-buy individuals on your list. Gift cards are an easy form of appreciation at the office, or some can be a safe alternative to cash when travelling. Gift cards allow companies to market, promote their company and bring new or returning customers to their stores regularly.
Gift cards also provide a resource for those individuals who need a little help with saving and budgeting. Spending too much money at your favourite coffee shop? Need a little help staying on track? Why not get a gift card where you can load a budgeted amount based on your required needs.
There are typically 3 types of Gift cards
- Open Loop or Bank Cards
- Closed loop or retail cards
- Digital or e-gift cards.
What exactly is an e-gift card?
The e-gift card is a digital version of a physical or virtual gift card. The recipient can receive the gift card via email, text message, or directly into an app on your phone.
Just like physical gift cards, these cards can be used in any capacity. Also, they can be redeemed online to your current account on your favourite shopping site.
E-gift cards are simple and easy to redeem. Most come with a unique code you can enter into your account or at check out immediately after receiving the card.
Typically all companies that offer physical gift cards will provide a digital version that is slightly more convenient to the purchaser and the recipient.
What is the best gift card to buy in Canada?
- Amazon gift cards
- Walmart gift cards
- Esso and Mobil gift cards
- Starbucks gift cards
- Chapters & Indigo gift cards
- WestJet gift cards
- Home Depot gift cards
- Cineplex gift cards
- Best Buy gift cards
- Rexall gift cards
- Uber Eats/ Uber gift cards
- Sephora gift cards
- Airbnb gift cards
- Visa gift cards
- Mastercard gift cards
Now let's separate some of the most popular gift cards here in Canada by specific types, as there are some distinct differences between cash and retail gift cards.
The first gift card we'll talk about is a retail gift card
Unlike cash gift cards, retail gift cards are typically only accepted by the retailer for which the card was purchased. So, they have limited flexibility that way but are also fee-free and have a more personal touch to them in the event of giving them as a gift.
Some cards can be purchased that are slightly broader. For example, you could buy a gift card to a restaurant that can be accepted by all restaurants that a particular company owns. Or, you could purchase a gift card to a specific shopping mall, which can be used at any store.
Retail gift cards are easy, convenient, and fee-free and benefit the store and the customer. These cards are often called closed-loop cards.
The best retail gift cards in Canada
Amazon Gift Card
The Amazon Gift card can be bought anywhere and used for any item Amazon sells on its site. Purchasing your card directly from Amazon comes with a few extra perks and can be used whether you have an Amazon Prime account or not.
The cards can also be used to purchase a Prime account or other subscription features if you so desire.
You can buy Amazon gift cards from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. They can also be purchased at online participating retailers and retail stores. You'll often see these types of gift cards at the checkout sections of grocery stores or in their revolving gift card rack.
Suppose you purchase the card directly from Amazon. In that case, you can choose your own custom design and place the card in a decorative gift box and add a personal message, perfect for events like Christmas or birthdays.
Along with this, Amazon will ship the gift card right to the receiver's door, meaning you won't have to lift a finger after you've made the purchase.
Usability of an Amazon Gift Card
Adding an Amazon Gift card to your account balance is relatively easy.
If you have a Prime account, follow your account menu until you find the payment type. Inside that option, you should be able to add a gift card balance. Scratch the protective layer off of your gift card ID # and enter it online; your account will be credited with your card's amount.
When purchasing an item from Amazon, select to use your gift card balance, or you may end up charging the total amount to your credit card for the item.
You can complete your order and add your details under the payment screen if you do not have a Prime account.
Amazon gift cards come in 3 versatile formats. Physical swipe-style cards, digital cards or eGift cards via text message or email, and printable cards.
They also come with no fees, no shipping costs and are redeemable to the millions of products available on the Amazon website.
Walmart Gift Cards
Walmart is one of the world's most versatile department stores, offering an abundance of items online or in-store that you can spend your gift card balance on. This makes them great purchases for gifts and one of the best gift cards you can buy.
Walmart's gift cards can be easily used to purchase or return items at any Walmart in Canada. They are a much-needed option for those instances where you know someone needs more than just a specific item from a particular store.
You can buy a Walmart gift card in-store, online, or at any participating retailer that offers gift cards. They also come in both physical swipe cards and digital e-cards.
Keep this in mind. However, Walmart Canada gift cards are only redeemable in Canada and come in denominations from 5$ to 500$. So if you travel to the United States, know you cannot utilize this card there.
What if my card is lost or stolen?
With the original receipt, Walmart will replace any lost or stolen card up to the balance remaining on the card. Your value also never expires.
To acquire your current balance, you can visit walmart.ca or call 1-888-537-5503. Refer to the back of the card for further details as well.
Returning an item you purchased with your gift card is easy as well. Walmart accepts returns per their standard policy, whether purchased with a gift card or not. Return your item to the store, and your gift card will be refunded.
Esso and Mobil Gift cards
There is no better gift than a tank of gas these days. But that's not all the recipient can buy with their Esso card.
Esso and Mobil cards can be redeemed for gas or any item in-store. But like all retail gift cards, they can only be redeemed at one retailer. So, you couldn't use this Esso or Mobil gift card at a Shell or Petro Canada.
Much like most of the other retail cards, you can purchase your Esso gift card at any station, online, or at any participating retail store that sells its gift cards.
Considering most of the items you buy from Esso will be made in-store, we were surprised that the company has e-gift cards. So, not only can you buy these at any regular Esso gas station, but you can also buy them online.
The ESSO gift card can be used at the pump or in-store by swiping as you would with your debit or credit card.
You do not need to activate your gift card if you buy it at the gas station. Esso gift cards you purchase in-store are activated by the attendant at the counter. However, suppose you purchase your card at a retailer or online. In that case, you must follow the instructions on the card to activate it.
One caveat with these cards, and an important one. ESSO gift cards are treated like cash. They cannot be re-issued if lost or stolen, so keep your cards safe.
As of November 2009, ESSO has removed all expiry dates from their gift cards, so there is no rush to redeem the total balance. If your card was purchased before that, it would have an expiry on the card itself.
Your balance can be obtained on your receipt after your purchase. Keeping the previous receipt with the card is recommended to ensure you are aware of your balance.
Starbucks gift card
Starbucks is one of the strongest coffee brands on the planet, primarily due to the popularity and quality of its products. It's also one of the more pricey options when it comes to coffee, and as a result, it's trendy to give gift cards.
You can buy Starbucks cards in several ways, including a physical location, online, or even through their mobile app.
Along with many of the other gift cards on this list, you can also buy them at participating retailers.
The cards do not expire, meaning you can use them whenever you'd like.
It's also essential that you register your Starbucks gift card. If you lose the card, the balance will not be recoverable if you did not register the gift card. If you do register it, however, Starbucks will freeze the old card and transfer your balance to a new one.
The Starbucks card has a unique feature in the fact you may be able to use it at retailers that sell Starbucks products, meaning it can be used outside of a Starbucks store. This is a rarity, but still possible. Outside of this payment method, the card can be used much like any other, at a Starbucks store, on their mobile app, and online.
Chapters Indigo gift card
Chapters Indigo offers an e-gift card and when purchased, is emailed to the recipient and is instantly redeemable. Giving this gift couldn't be easier.
To purchase one, you must visit their website, search for their gift cards, and select a physical or e-gift card. One benefit of the e-gift card over the physical version is that you can purchase a fully customizable card and message with it, making it much more personable.
An excellent option for a gift. In addition to this, e-gift cards can be purchased, customized, and then delivered on a specific date in the future so that you can set and forget a gift for someone.
To check your balance, visit the Chapters Indigo website, sign into your account, or click the check balance option.
Chapters Indigo does also offer a physical gift card that is fully customizable as well, but this requires a bit more work than the digital one.
West Jet Gift card
Not only do stores and restaurants offer gift cards, there are gift cards out there for everything. Travel, in particular, can be a costly venture for anyone; giving the gift of a Westjet gift card can help someone get to where they need to go to work or maybe even relax.
Westjet gift cards, physical or digital, can be purchased on the Westjet website only. They are available in denominations of $25-$2000.
Cards are redeemable through your travel agent or online at westjet.com.
Your gift card is not just for purchasing a flight. It can also be used to pay flight taxes or early seat selection.
However, remember that you cannot use this gift card for onboard or pre-paid food and drinks, seat upgrades, wifi or movie purchases, or baggage and cancellation fees.
Your WestJet gift card cannot be used by any partner websites, even if they are selling a WestJet product.
All details of your WestJet rewards card can be easily accessed on the WestJet website.
Home Depot Gift card
Home Depot gift cards are exceptionally versatile. Home Depots' extensive selection of items makes this card the perfect gift for almost anyone on your list.
Whether you need a housewarming gift, a Christmas gift, or just a gift for that DIYer, this is the one. Home Depot offers its gift cards in 2 forms, digital and physical. Your gift can be mailed, emailed, or slipped into a greeting card and delivered by you in person.
Home Depot gift cards never expire, so there is no worrying about using them on time or jumping through customer service hoops to get a new card.
They can be purchased at all participating Home Depots, additional retailers that sell gift cards, or online at Homedepot.ca.
Home Depot gift cards have zero fees, no need to activate them, and checking your balance is as easy as following the steps on their website or getting an in-store clerk to check it for you. In addition, the cards are reloadable.
Home Depot gift cards are country-specific, so you cannot use your Canadian card anywhere but in Canada, and you cannot use your US gift card in Canada, either.
Cineplex Gift cards
Why not a Cineplex gift card for the movie fans on your list or even your kids. These cards can be used for movies or snacks at your favourite Cineplex location.
This card offers more flexibility for the recipient to attend the movie they want at the time they need.
Gift cards can be purchased at any Cineplex box office and online at cineplex.com.
The Cineplex gift card has no expiration date, so there is no rush to use it. The Cineplex card comes with zero fees. Your money is safe as long as your card is secure.
Remember, Cineplex does not take responsibility for lost or stolen cards; they stress that you must look after them like they are cash. If you lose the card, the balance is likely lost as well.
Cineplex gift cards are country specific. So you cannot use your Canadian card outside of Canada, and you cannot use your US gift card in Canada.
Cineplex sometimes offers a free gift with a 30$ gift card in the form of a coupon book. You can see the details at cineplex.com. The gift book contains free upgrades, 2-for-1 admission and free popcorn.
Lets now go over the best cash card gift cards in Canada
Cash gift cards a more versatile option that can be used worldwide. As a result, many people choose to buy them as gifts for people that may not have a specific need for a retail gift card. Lets go over two of the moist popular ones below.
VISA Gift Card
Visa Gift Cards are convenient, purchased and redeemable almost everywhere. You can use your Visa gift card practically anywhere cash is accepted, whether for electronics, groceries, a specific accessory, or even toys.
Visa gift cards are not limited to a particular store. They can be used in person or online by adults and even children. They act much the same as debit cards.
Visa gift cards can be used repeatedly until the balance on the card is zero. Remember, unlike a specific Visa credit card that could offer incentives and bonuses, these gift cards are pretty generic, offering no added benefits besides the cash balance.
All Canadian Visa gift cards can also be replaced if lost or stolen. When you are given a Visa gift card or giving one, make sure to make a note of the number on the front of the card just in case you need to claim the card lost or stolen.
In addition to this, make sure to sign the back of your card for security purposes and call the toll-free number to report your card lost or stolen.
Another added benefit of the card is that your balance can be found online or by calling the number. Always keep track of your balance, as making a purchase that exceeds your balance can cause the merchant to deny the purchase.
Although this is a gift card, it functions much like a credit card. Because of this, your card can expire. However, your balance is still safe. Just contact the financial provider of your gift card and request a new card.
Do Visa gift cards work internationally?
Visa Gift cards can be used internationally unless stated on the card itself. Candian Visa Gift cards are for use in Canada, where Visa is accepted only.
Are Visa gift cards reloadable?
Visa gift cards are not reloadable. The initial value is the only value that can be added to the card. If the card balance is 0 and you do not have any chance of returning any items processed with this card, destroy it and discard it responsibly.
Don't mistake this card for a credit card. Once your funds are gone, the card is done. With your Visa gift card, you cannot set up reoccurring payments.
Why your Visa gift card may not be working
There are many reasons why your gift card may not be working. For one, it could be expired. In that case, contact the issuer and get a new card; your balance is protected. Second, if the total purchase is more than you have on the card, it could be rejected.
Additionally, these cards require activation and a fee to be paid (more on that below.) A purchase will be declined if you haven't activated the card yet. And finally, some internet purchases with strict security may not accept purchases with Gift cards.
Fees with Visa gift cards
Sadly, most Visa gift cards charge an activation fee, but some institutions offer these cards without a fee. The activation fee is $2.95 -$6.95, regardless of your initial balance.
Has your balance disappeared? Has it been a while since you used the card? Some cards charge an inactivity fee after the card has been idle. Visa has been known to charge a fee of $2.95 monthly when your card is inactive.
Mastercard Gift Cards
Mastercard Gift cards are very similar to Visa Gift Cards. However, there is one key difference, and that is fees. More on that later, however.
They are accepted anywhere Mastercard credit card is accepted and can be used worldwide, online or in-store.
Your card can also be used to make a bill payment online.
Purchasing a card is relatively easy. It can be done at participating retail locations, online banks or retailer sites, or even at particular bank branches.
To check your balance, order additional gift cards or any other inquiries, call the issuing institution or the number on the back of the gift card.
Much like a Visa gift card, you can get it back if your Mastercard gift card is lost or stolen. However, make sure that when you first receive a card, you sign the back of it for security purposes and make a note of the card number. This will make the process much easier.
This gift card acts like a credit card, so it does have an expiry. However, your funds are not lost if it does expire. If you need a replacement because your card has expired, contact Mastercard for a replacement.
Does a Mastercard Gift card have fees?
The Mastercard gift card has no fees. This is the main advantage it has over the Visa Gift Card.
How do I use a Mastercard Gift card?
First, you must activate your card by calling the number on the card or visiting the website.
Other than that, this card acts like a regular credit card. However, spending limits differ significantly from a credit card as you can only spend the current balance. As a result, be aware of the balance on the card.
If there is not enough left on the card to fully fund your purchase, tell the cashier you'd like to do multiple payment methods. In this instance, they should be able to charge the remaining amount you have on your balance. Then you can finish the payment via another payment method.
When purchasing online, many of the same details apply. Be aware of your balance, and do not attempt to pay more from your gift card than your remaining balance.
The difference here is you likely will not be able to do "split" transactions online. It makes using balances smaller than the total gift card a bit complex.
Mastercard gift cards are compatible with digital wallets, specifically Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
You can redeem the gift card with any of those apps. You can add the card to your digital wallet by following the instructions in the app.