Using Gift Cards asEmployee Incentives

Gift cards increasingly are becoming more convenient and personalized. The fifth annual National Retail Federation (NRF) Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that to no one's surprise, people love gift cards. Gift card sales totaled in the $26.3 billion range in the 2007 holiday season, compared to $24.8 billion in 2006.

This bodes well for the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC), a strategic industry group within the Incentive Marketing Association. IGCC educates the incentive marketplace and the corporate community on the benefits of gift cards, including choice, value and service. Generally, what is popular for the average consumer is popular with employees, who appreciate the flexibility provided by gift cards that are distributed as part of an incentive or recognition program.

“It is no secret why gift cards are the most popular item on consumers' shopping lists,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. Tight financial times often cause employees to pull back on personal discretionary spending, but they “are hoping to receive a gift card so they can purchase something they may have had their eye on for months.”

Top Ten Tips

Shoppers, or, in this case, employers, need to be smart when buying and giving gift cards.

Here are some tips and important facts about gift cards:

  1. Be aware of individual retailers' policies regarding expiration dates before purchasing gift cards.

  2. To ensure that a recipient receives the card's full value, shoppers should only buy gift cards from reputable retailers (not online auction sites). Additionally, consumers should keep their original receipt with the value of the card they purchased in case there are any problems with the card when it is redeemed.

  3. There are big differences between store-issued and bank-issued gift cards. While 92 percent of the leading retailers have no fees associated with gift cards, card issuers such as VISA and MasterCard are more likely to add on additional fees for activation, maintenance, inactivity and transactions.

  4. Retailers do not count a gift card as a sale when it is purchased. Instead, they wait until the gift card is redeemed and merchandise is exchanged.

  5. Encourage spending gift cards before the government takes the money away! While the rules may not kick in for a couple of years, many states have laws which allow the state to collect “abandoned property,” which means that if personal property goes unclaimed for a certain period of time, the state has the right to take it into the state treasury. Gift cards that go unused or unredeemed for more than a few years often are treated as “abandoned” property by states.

  6. Due to improved technology, some retailers are able to reissue a lost gift card if consumers have kept the original purchase receipt. Some retailers also encourage gift card recipients to register their card through the store's Web site, which enables them to check their balance online and receive a new card if they lose or misplace the original card.

  7. Many retailers are allowing consumers to design their own gift cards, adding personal messages and photos.

  8. Many stores can carry gift cards at their check-out counters because today's gift cards are not active until scanned. Also, retailers like grocery stores and drug stores carry a variety of different gift cards at their registers – for movie theaters, coffee shops and clothing stores.

  9. Most of today's gift cards differ from traditional gift certificates because they are “stored value” cards. When a consumer spends $25 from a $50 gift card, the card automatically updates the balance.

  10. Save yourself the guesswork and buy gift cards. That way, employees can choose their own rewards.

The IGCC Member Directory is a great resource for the leading merchandise, travel, food, accommodations and services gift card suppliers in the incentive market.

IGCC Members

AFFINION LOYALTY GROUP
www.affinionloyalty.com

AMAZON.COM
www.amazon.com

AMC THEATRES
www.amctheatres.com

AMERICAN BANK NOTE CO.
www.abncompany.com

AMERICAN EXPRESS INCENTIVE SERVICES
www.aeis.com

ARROWEYE SOLUTIONS INC.
www.arroweyesolutions.com

ART.COM
www.art.com

AVANTI PRESS INC.
www.avantipress.com

AVIS BUDGET GROUP
www.avisbudgetgroup.com

BARNES & NOBLE INC.
www.bngiftcards.com

BASS PRO SHOPS/OUTDOOR WORLD INCENTIVES
www.owincentives.com

BATH & BODY WORKS
www.bathandbodyworks.com/corporatesales

BED BATH & BEYOND
www.bedbath.com

BEDANDBREAKFAST.COM
www.bedandbreakfast.com

BEST BUY
www.bestbuy.com

BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL
www.bestwestern.com

BLACKHAWK NETWORK
www.blackhawknetwork.com

BLOCKBUSTER INC.
www.bbincentives.com

BORDERS
www.borders.com

BRINKER INTERNATIONAL
www.brinkergiftcards.com

CABELA'S CORPORATE OUTFITTER
www.corporateoutfitter.cabelas.com

CARD EXPRESS INC.
www.cardex.com

CARD PERSONALIZATION SOLUTIONS
www.crdpersol.com

CARLSON MARKETING WORLDWIDE
www.carlson.com

CARLSON RESTAURANTS WORLDWIDE
www.fridays.com

CHARMING SHOPPES INC./CSGC INC.
www.charmingshoppes.com

CHASE PAYMENTECH SOLUTIONS
www.chasepaymentech.com

CIRCUIT CITY STORES INC.
www.circuitcity.com

CLAIM JUMPER RESTAURANT
www.claimjumper.com

COMDATA - formerly STORED VALUE SYSTEMS
www.comdata.com

CONNEXIONS LOYALTY TRAVEL SOLUTIONS
www.distinctivedepartures.com

CORPORATEREWARDS.COM
www.corporaterewards.com

CRACKER BARREL OLD COUNTRY STORE
www.crackerbarrel.com

CRATE AND BARREL
www.crateandbarrel.com

CRUTCHFIELD
www.crutchfield.com

CVS PHARMACY INC.
www.cvs.com

DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC.
www.darden.com

DAVE & BUSTERS
www.daveandbusters.com

DISCOVER FINANCIAL SERVICES
www.discovernetwork.com

DISNEY'S INCENTIVE REWARDS
www.disneyincentiverewards.com

DOMINO'S PIZZA
www.dominos.com

DUNKIN' DONUTS BRAND INC.
www.dunkindonuts.com

EDDIE BAUER INC.
www.eddiebauer.com

ESC LOYALTY - A TSYS CO.
www.escloyalty.com

FAIRMONT HOTELS & RESORTS/RAFFLES HOTELS & RESORTS
www.fairmont.com/ovation rewards

FIRST DATA PREPAID SERVICES
www.firstdata.com

FOOT LOCKER INC.
www.footlockergiftcards.com

GIFTCARD PARTNERS INC.
www.giftcardpartners.com

GIFTCARDS.COM
www.giftcards.com

GIFTCERTIFICATES.COM
www.giftcertificates.com

GIFTS.COM/GIFTCO
www.gifts.com/corporate

GLOBOFORCE LTD.
www.globoforce.com

GODIVA CHOCOLATIER INC.
godivachoc.com

GREAT LAKES SCRIP CENTER INC.
www.glscrip.com

HALLMARK CARDS INC.
www.hallmark.com

HALLMARK INSIGHTS
www.HallmarkInsights.com

HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER
www.hammacher.com

HARD ROCK INTERNATIONAL
www.hardrock.com

THE HERTZ CORP.
www.hertz.com

HOME DEPOT INCENTIVES INC.
www.homedepot.com

HYATT HOTEL CORP.
www.hyatt.com

INCENTONE
www.incentone.com

INCOMM
www.incomm.com

JCPENNEY INCENTIVE SALES
www.jcpgiftcard.com

JET INC.
www.imaginejet.net

JOS. A. BANK CLOTHIERS INC.
www.josbank.com

KOHL'S
www.kohls.com/corpgiftcard

L.L.BEAN DIRECT TO BUSINESS
www.llbean.com/business

LA CENSE BEEF LLC
www.lacensebeef.com

LANDS' END
www.giftcard.landsend.com

LINENS ‘N THINGS INC.
www.LNT.com

LOBSTER GRAM INT. INC.
www.livelob.com

LOWE'S COMPANIES INC.
www.lowes.com/giftcards

LOYALTY INNOVATIONS
www.loyaltyinnovations.com

LOYALTYWORKS INC.
www.loyaltyworks.com

MACY'S CORPORATE SALES & SERVICES
www.macys.com/corporategift

MARKETING INNOVATORS
www.marketinginnovators.com

MARRIOTT INDIVIDUAL INCENTIVES
www.marriott.com/incentives

METROMEDIA RESTAURANT GROUP
www.metrogroup.com

MOVIE GALLERY, INC. | HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT | GAME CRAZY
www.hollywoodvideo.com/giftcards

MT&L CARD PRODUCTS and FULFILLMENT SERVICES
www.mtlcard.com

NATIONAL GIFT CARD CORP.
www.ngc-group.com

NBO SYSTEMS INC.
www.nbo.com

NIKE INC.
www.nike.com

O'CHARLEY'S
www.ocharleys.com

OMAHA STEAKS
www.osincentives.com

OPTIMUM CARD SOLUTIONS
www.optimumcardsolutions.com

OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE INC.
www.outback.com

PANERA BREAD
www.panerabread.com

PAPA JOHN'S
www.papajohns.com

PATRIOT MARKETING GROUP/FOOT LOCKER GIFTCARD SALES
www.footlockergiftcard.com

PIER 1 IMPORTS
www.pier1.com

PIZZA HUT
www.pizzahut.com

PREPAID SOLUTIONS USA
www.prepaidsolutions.com

REAF MARKETING
www.reafmarketing.com

RED DOOR SPAS
www.reddoorspas.com

REGAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP
www.corporateboxoffice.com

REGIS CORP.
www.regiscorpgiftcards.com

RK INCENTIVES
www.rkincentives.com

ROYAL PERFORMANCE GROUP
www.shellgiftcard.com

RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE
www.ruthschris.com

RYMAX MARKETING SERVICES
www.rymaxinc.com

SALESFORCEXP
www.salesforcexp.com

SEARS HOLDINGS GIFT CARDS
www.sears.com/corpgiftcards

SELLING COMMUNICATIONS INC.
www.motivationstrategies.com

SHELL OIL PRODUCTS US
www.shellgiftcard.com

SIMON PROPERTY GROUP
www.shopsimon.com

SPA FINDER INC.
www.spafinder.com

STAPLES CORPORATE INCENTIVES
www.staples.com/incentives

STARBUCKS COFFEE CO.
www.starbucks.com/corporate sales

STONER BUNTING MARKETING
www.stonerbunting.com

SVM LP
www.svmcards.com

T.J. MAXX/MARSHALLS/HOMEGOODS/AJ WRIGHT
www.tjxmaxx.com/corp_rewards.asp

THE TALBOTS INC.
www.talbots.com

TARGET
www.target.com/corporategiftcards

THE TIMBERLAND CO.
www.timberland.com/businessdirect

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT
www.universalorlando.com

VIRTUAL INCENTIVES GROUP INC.
www.virtualincentivesgroup.com

VISA U.S.A.
www.visa.com

WALGREENS GIFT CARDS
www.walgreens.com/about /community/giftcards/faq.jsp

WAYSPA.COM
www.wayspa.com

WILLIAMS-SONOMA INC.
www.williams-sonomainc.com

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