From an RHUer:
This is an unabashed rant against gift cards.
When I was a kid, a birthday present from a grandparent would often be a birthday card with cash inside. Apparently this tradition exists no longer -- it's been replaced by the birthday card with a gift card enclosed. There are even special-occasion cards with a slot built-in for the gift card! Worse, the gift card gift has now made it socially acceptable to give "money" as a gift to any friend or acquaintance, rather than some thoughtful present.
So consider this scenario: You go into some store, pick out, say, a $20 gift card for some other store or restaurant or whatever, and give it as a gift. Now the recipient can use that card only in the specified store! How is that gracious? Cash would be better.
Okay, you say, so give them a pre-paid "credit" card instead. But now there are restrictions where you can use these. Or how about my experience: I used such a "credit" card for a purchase that used up the value of the card. I don't recall whether I trashed the card or whether the clerk did, but 2 weeks later when the item broke, the card was not to be found. Nonetheless, the store put the money from the return back onto the gift card -- with no way for me to access it.
Then there was the time, just before cell phones were in every pocket, a parent gave his kids phone cards from the Post Office so they'd have a way of calling in an emergency. Guess what: the cards expired after a year or so -- unused.
And that proves to be a characteristic of all gift cards. You pay money for a card that restricts the user where and how it may be used and expires if not used before some date. This was brought home to one person who had been in the habit of giving such cards as gifts. One recipient was her parent. When the parent died, this person (the executor) found a bunch of unused and expired gift cards!
This person learned the lesson and stopped giving cards, but the cards seem no less popular than ever. I guess you just can't fix stupid.