Can you send a gift card electronically?

Sending gift cards electronically has become increasingly popular in recent years. With more retailers offering e-gift cards and new services emerging that allow you to send gift cards through email, text or mobile apps, giving the gift of a gift card without a physical card is easier than ever.

What are electronic gift cards?

Electronic gift cards, also known as e-gift cards, are just like regular gift cards except they are delivered electronically instead of physically. Once purchased, e-gift cards are sent to the recipient via email, text message or through a brand’s mobile app.

E-gift cards come with a claim code and instructions for redemption. Some e-gift cards are sent as a virtual card with a number and PIN, while others provide a link for the recipient to select their preferred retailer. Either way, the recipient can use the e-gift card code or link to make purchases online or in-person wherever the brand’s regular plastic gift cards are accepted.

What are the benefits of sending gift cards electronically?

There are several advantages to sending gift cards electronically rather than through the mail or in person:

  • It’s fast – E-gift cards are delivered instantly, so you don’t have to worry about shipping times.
  • It’s convenient – You can purchase and send e-gift cards any time from your computer or mobile device.
  • It’s flexible – Many e-gift card brands allow you to choose the exact amount you want to give.
  • It’s eco-friendly – With no plastic to produce and ship, e-gift cards are a greener gifting option.
  • It’s secure – E-gift card codes are encrypted for safe delivery to the recipient’s email or phone.

In addition to the above benefits, sending gift cards electronically allows you to send last minute gifts for birthdays, holidays and more. You can also take advantage of e-gift card promos and sales since no shipping is required.

What retailers offer electronic gift cards?

Today, most major retailers now offer electronic gift card options, including:

  • Amazon
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Best Buy
  • The Home Depot
  • Nordstrom
  • Sephora
  • Gap
  • Nike
  • H&M

Popular food and beverage brands like Starbucks, Domino’s, Outback Steakhouse and Subway also have e-gift card programs. For smaller local businesses, third party gift card providers like Blackhawk Network and offer e-gift cards that can be redeemed at participating merchants.

How do you send a gift card electronically in 5 easy steps?

Sending an e-gift card is simple. Just follow these five easy steps:

  1. Pick an e-gift card brand and choose an amount. Take a look at the merchant’s website or e-gift card section to view options.
  2. Purchase the e-gift card through the retailer’s website and add it to your cart. Physical gift cards cannot be converted to electronic ones.
  3. Enter the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number during checkout. Some brands allow you to schedule a future delivery date and add a personalized message too.
  4. Pay for the e-gift card using your preferred payment method like credit card or PayPal.
  5. The brand will deliver the e-gift card to the recipient on the date you selected. All you have to do is notify them to check their email or phone!

Can you customize electronic gift cards?

One of the nice things about e-gift cards from major retailers is that you can often customize them in ways you can’t with plastic gift cards.

Customization options may include:

  • Choosing any dollar amount – Set the exact gift card value you want rather than select from predetermined amounts.
  • Adding your own message – Write a personal greeting or note to make the gift extra special.
  • Selecting the delivery date – Schedule e-gift cards to arrive on a certain date like a birthday or holiday.
  • Emailing the e-gift card – Send directly to the recipient’s email address for instant delivery.
  • Texting the e-gift card – Send the e-gift card code and instructions right to the recipient’s phone.

Keep in mind that customization options vary by retailer. Make sure to check out the e-gift card program details before purchasing to see what’s available.

Do electronic gift cards expire?

Similar to plastic gift cards, most e-gift cards also come with an expiration date. Expiration periods tend to range anywhere from 3 months up to 2 years after activation.

It’s important to stress to the recipient to use the e-gift card as soon as possible to prevent it from expiring and losing the card’s value. You can find the expiration date or period detailed in the fine print when purchasing an e-gift card.

Some tips to keep e-gift cards from expiring include:

  • Using the e-gift card towards one large purchase rather than small transactions over time.
  • Setting a calendar reminder to use the e-gift card a month or two before it expires.
  • Carefully reviewing brand-specific policies on expired e-gift cards. Some will allow you to request an extension or exchange.
  • Reselling or exchanging unused e-gift card amounts through gift card exchange websites before expiration.

Following up with the recipient shortly after sending the e-gift card can also remind them to take advantage of the gift right away.

Are there fees associated with electronic gift cards?

One advantage of e-gift cards compared to plastic gift cards is that there are rarely activation or purchase fees. Since e-gift cards don’t require physical production and shipping, brands typically don’t charge extra fees.

However, there are a few potential fees to keep in mind when purchasing electronic gift cards:

  • Service fees – If buying an e-gift card through a third-party website, there may be small service fees applied at checkout.
  • Expired card fees – Some retailers charge fees to replace or extend expired e-gift cards. These range from $2-$5 typically.
  • Replacement fees – If an e-gift card is lost or stolen, reissuing it could incur a fee.

To avoid fees, it’s best to buy e-gift cards directly from the merchant’s website when possible. Also, make sure your recipient uses the full gift card amount prior to expiration.

Are electronic gift cards secure?

E-gift cards are generally secure as long as you follow proper precautions. Here are some tips to ensure safe e-gift card purchasing and redemption:

  • Only buy e-gift cards directly from the merchant’s website or an authorized dealer. Avoid third-party sellers.
  • Look for secure checkout indicated by “HTTPS” in the URL and a padlock icon.
  • Never share e-gift card details over public Wi-Fi or unsecured networks.
  • Copy and directly paste e-gift card codes rather than typing them out when redeeming.
  • Treat e-gift card codes like cash. Never post them publicly on social media or email.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication where available when creating accounts to redeem e-gift cards.

As long as the e-gift card number remains protected like a password, there is very little risk involved. Monitoring the gift card balance over time can also alert you to any unauthorized use.

Can you exchange or return electronic gift cards?

Unfortunately, most retailers do not allow e-gift cards to be returned, exchanged or refunded once purchased. However, there are a few options if an e-gift card goes unused:

  • Regift it – Regift the e-gift card to someone else by changing the recipient email address or phone number.
  • Resell it – Sell an unwanted e-gift card at a discounted rate on sites like CardCash, GiftCash and Raise.
  • Trade it – Swap the e-gift card for one to a preferred retailer using exchange sites.
  • Use it – Spend the e-gift card amount on gift cards to other retailers sold on the brand’s website.

To avoid the need to return or exchange e-gift cards, try sending them for retailers that most people enjoy, like Amazon, Target and Walmart. Picking versatile e-gift cards increases the chances of use.

Can you send electronic gift cards internationally?

E-gift cards open up convenient gifting options for family and friends located internationally. Many major retailers allow you to send e-gift cards to recipients in other countries.

Key considerations for international e-gift card sending include:

  • Check if the retailer ships internationally – Some only allow domestic e-gift card sending.
  • Ensure the recipient’s email domain matches their country.
  • Verify the retailer exists in their country and accepts the same gift cards.
  • Know if any extra taxes or customs fees will be charged.
  • Understand foreign transaction fees associated with purchasing international e-gift cards.

It’s also courteous to take into account time zones and language differences when sending e-gift cards abroad. Scheduling delivery at a reasonable hour and translating any instructions demonstrates extra thoughtfulness.

What are the most popular electronic gift cards?

The most commonly purchased and gifted e-gift card brands include:

Retailer Category
Amazon General merchandise
Walmart General merchandise
Target General merchandise
Starbucks Restaurant
Apple Technology
Nike Apparel & accessories
Sephora Beauty & cosmetics
H&M Apparel & accessories
Chipotle Restaurant

Amazon tops the list due to its enormous selection of items available. Big box retailers like Walmart and Target also rank highly for offering e-gift cards that can be spent on a variety of goods. Popular food and drink brands like Starbucks round out the most gifted e-gift card list.

What occasions are electronic gift cards appropriate for?

E-gift cards make great gifts for nearly any occasion throughout the year, including:

  • Birthdays – An e-gift card provides the birthday boy or girl the flexibility of choosing their own present.
  • Weddings – Bridal showers and newlywed couples can benefit from e-gift cards to buy items they need for their new home together.
  • Graduations – High school and college grads appreciate the ability to pick their own gear and home furnishings.
  • Baby showers – Parents can buy essentials like diapers, clothing and toys with e-gift cards.
  • Anniversaries – Spouses often exchange e-gift cards for date nights or romantic gifts on anniversaries.
  • Valentine’s Day – E-gift cards make quick, foolproof Valentine’s gifts for significant others.
  • Holidays – Major holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Eid and more are perfect times for gift card giving.
  • Just because – Outside of holidays, e-gift cards also make great little “just because” presents to brighten someone’s day.

Really, there’s no bad occasion for sending an e-gift card. They provide the recipient the ability to choose a gift tailored just for them.

Which electronic gift cards offer the most flexibility?

Some of the most flexible and versatile e-gift cards to give include:

  • Amazon – Wide selection of products available for purchase.
  • Visa/Mastercard/Amex – Can be spent virtually anywhere.
  • Walmart – From groceries to apparel to electronics, Walmart sells it all.
  • Target – Everything from dorm room supplies to home goods to toys for kids.
  • Airbnb – Can be used to book accommodations worldwide.
  • Uber/Lyft – Provides credits for rides and food delivery.
  • Delta/Southwest/United – Redeemable for flights with the airline and partner vendors.

Cash-equivalent open loop gift cards and cards for mega retailers give recipients total freedom to choose their own gift. Food delivery and travel gift cards also make practical presents.

Are there any downsides to electronic gift cards?

Though e-gift cards provide convenience and flexibility, there are a few potential downsides to consider as well:

  • Less personal than a wrapped gift
  • Recipients forget about unused balances
  • Fees for replacing lost or expired cards
  • Less exciting than receiving cash
  • Higher risk of security issues
  • Lack of physical reminder to use the card

Many downsides associated with e-gift cards revolve around recipient forgetfulness and inaction. Following up and reminding the recipient to enjoy the gift helps overcome these pitfalls.

What protections are offered if your gift card is stolen?

If an electronic gift card is lost or stolen, it’s important to act quickly to avoid losing the funds. Here are some key protections to minimize gift card fraud:

  • E-gift card numbers need to be scratched off or obtained directly like passwords in order to be used fraudulently.
  • Contact the retailer immediately to report the e-gift card missing and request deactivation.
  • If purchased with a credit card, request a chargeback for the stolen e-gift card amount.
  • Monitor the gift card balance to watch for unauthorized use.
  • Change account passwords associated with the compromised e-gift card.

The sooner the theft is reported, the less likely funds can be improperly spent by a third-party. Having the e-gift card number rather than just the linked debit/credit card provides another layer of protection as well.


Electronic gift cards offer convenience, flexibility and ease when you want to send a gift but don’t have time to shop and ship a physical present. Major retailers and brands now make e-gift cards available that can be customized and scheduled for delivery instantly.

By taking advantage of money-saving e-gift card promos and understanding expiration policies, you can provide hassle-free gifts for any occasion. With proper security precautions, e-gift cards are generally safe to purchase and redeem online and in-store. Just be sure to remind recipients to enjoy the gift right away!

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