Using Gift Cards as Employee Incentives

When developing an employee incentive and recognition program, the Incentive Gift Card Council suggests including gift cards as one of your reward options.

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.

Incentive Gift Card Council Members

AFFINION LOYALTY GROUP http://www.affinionloyalty.com
AMAZON.COM http://www.amazon.com
AMC THEATRES http://www.amctheatres.com
AMERICAN BANK NOTE CO. http://www.abncompany.com
AMERICAN EXPRESS INCENTIVE SERVICES http://www.aeis.com
ARROWEYE SOLUTIONS INC. http://www.arroweyesolutions.com
ART.COM http://www.art.com
AVANTI PRESS INC. http://www.avantipress.com
AVIS BUDGET GROUP http://www.avisbudgetgroup.com
BARNES & NOBLE INC. http://www.bngiftcards.com
BASS PRO SHOPS/OUTDOOR WORLD INCENTIVES http://www.owincentives.com
BATH & BODY WORKS http://www.bathandbodyworks.com /corporatesales
BED BATH & BEYOND http://www.bedbath.com
BEDANDBREAKFAST.COM http://www.bedandbreakfast.com
BEST BUY http://www.bestbuy.com
BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL http://www.bestwestern.com
BLACKHAWK NETWORK http://www.blackhawknetwork.com
BLOCKBUSTER INC. http://www.bbincentives.com
BORDERS http://www.borders.com
BRINKER INTERNATIONAL http://www.brinkergiftcards.com
CABELA’S CORPORATE OUTFITTER http://www.corporateoutfitter.cabelas.com
CARD EXPRESS INC. http://www.cardex.com
CARD PERSONALIZATION SOLUTIONS http://www.crdpersol.com
CARLSON MARKETING WORLDWIDE http://www.carlson.com
CARLSON RESTAURANTS WORLDWIDE http://www.fridays.com
CHARMING SHOPPES INC./CSGC INC. http://www.charmingshoppes.com
CHASE PAYMENTECH SOLUTIONS http://www.chasepaymentech.com
CIRCUIT CITY STORES INC. http://www.circuitcity.com
CLAIM JUMPER RESTAURANT http://www.claimjumper.com
COMDATA - formerly STORED VALUE SYSTEMS http://www.comdata.com
CONNEXIONS LOYALTY TRAVEL SOLUTIONS http://www.distinctivedepartures.com
CORPORATEREWARDS.COM http://www.corporaterewards.com
CRACKER BARREL OLD COUNTRY STORE http://www.crackerbarrel.com
CRATE AND BARREL http://www.crateandbarrel.com
CRUTCHFIELD http://www.crutchfield.com
CVS PHARMACY INC. http://www.cvs.com
DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC. http://www.darden.com
DAVE & BUSTERS http://www.daveandbusters.com
DISCOVER FINANCIAL SERVICES http://www.discovernetwork.com
DISNEY’S INCENTIVE REWARDS http://www.disneyincentiverewards.com
DOMINO’S PIZZA http://www.dominos.com
DUNKIN’ DONUTS BRAND INC. http://www.dunkindonuts.com
EDDIE BAUER INC. http://www.eddiebauer.com
ESC LOYALTY - A TSYS CO. http://www.escloyalty.com
FAIRMONT HOTELS & RESORTS/RAFFLES HOTELS & RESORTS http://www.fairmont.com/ovation rewards
FIRST DATA PREPAID SERVICES http://www.firstdata.com
FOOT LOCKER INC. http://www.footlockergiftcards.com
GIFTCARD PARTNERS INC. http://www.giftcardpartners.com
GIFTCARDS.COM http://www.giftcards.com
GIFTCERTIFICATES.COM http://www.giftcertificates.com
GIFTS.COM/GIFTCO http://www.gifts.com/corporate
GLOBOFORCE LTD. http://www.globoforce.com
GODIVA CHOCOLATIER INC. http://godivachoc.com
GREAT LAKES SCRIP CENTER INC. http://www.glscrip.com
HALLMARK CARDS INC. http://www.hallmark.com
HALLMARK INSIGHTS http://www.HallmarkInsights.com
HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER http://www.hammacher.com
HARD ROCK INTERNATIONAL http://www.hardrock.com
THE HERTZ CORP. http://www.hertz.com
HOME DEPOT INCENTIVES INC. http://www.homedepot.com
HYATT HOTEL CORP. http://www.hyatt.com
INCENTONE http://www.incentone.com
INCOMM http://www.incomm.com
JCPENNEY INCENTIVE SALES http://www.jcpgiftcard.com
JET INC. http://www.imaginejet.net
JOS. A. BANK CLOTHIERS INC. http://www.josbank.com
KOHL’S http://www.kohls.com/corpgiftcard
L.L.BEAN DIRECT TO BUSINESS http://www.llbean.com/business
LA CENSE BEEF LLC http://www.lacensebeef.com
LANDS’ END http://www.giftcard.landsend.com
LINENS ‘N THINGS INC. http://www.LNT.com
LOBSTER GRAM INT. INC. http://www.livelob.com
LOWE’S COMPANIES INC. http://www.lowes.com/giftcards
LOYALTY INNOVATIONS http://www.loyaltyinnovations.com
LOYALTYWORKS INC. http://www.loyaltyworks.com
MACY’S CORPORATE SALES & SERVICES http://www.macys.com/corporategift
MARKETING INNOVATORS http://www.marketinginnovators.com
MARRIOTT INDIVIDUAL INCENTIVES http://www.marriott.com/incentives
METROMEDIA RESTAURANT GROUP http://www.metrogroup.com
MOVIE GALLERY, INC. | HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT | GAME CRAZY http://www.hollywoodvideo.com/giftcards
MT&L CARD PRODUCTS and FULFILLMENT SERVICES http://www.mtlcard.com
NATIONAL GIFT CARD CORP. http://www.ngc-group.com
NBO SYSTEMS INC. http://www.nbo.com
NIKE INC. http://www.nike.com
O’CHARLEY’S http://www.ocharleys.com
OMAHA STEAKS http://www.osincentives.com
OPTIMUM CARD SOLUTIONS http://www.optimumcardsolutions.com
OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE INC. http://www.outback.com
PANERA BREAD http://www.panerabread.com
PAPA JOHN’S http://www.papajohns.com
PATRIOT MARKETING GROUP/FOOT LOCKER GIFTCARD SALES http://www.footlockergiftcard.com
PIER 1 IMPORTS http://www.pier1.com
PIZZA HUT http://www.pizzahut.com
PREPAID SOLUTIONS USA http://www.prepaidsolutions.com
REAF MARKETING http://www.reafmarketing.com
RED DOOR SPAS http://www.reddoorspas.com
REGAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP http://www.corporateboxoffice.com
REGIS CORP. http://www.regiscorpgiftcards.com
RK INCENTIVES http://www.rkincentives.com
ROYAL PERFORMANCE GROUP http://www.shellgiftcard.com

RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE http://www.ruthschris.com
RYMAX MARKETING SERVICES http://www.rymaxinc.com
SALESFORCEXP http://www.salesforcexp.com
SEARS HOLDINGS GIFT CARDS http://www.sears.com/corpgiftcards
SELLING COMMUNICATIONS INC. http://www.motivationstrategies.com
SHELL OIL PRODUCTS US http://www.shellgiftcard.com
SIMON PROPERTY GROUP http://www.shopsimon.com
SPA FINDER INC. http://www.spafinder.com
STAPLES CORPORATE INCENTIVES http://www.staples.com/incentives
STARBUCKS COFFEE CO. http://www.starbucks.com/corporate sales
STONER BUNTING MARKETING http://www.stonerbunting.com
SVM LP http://www.svmcards.com
T.J. MAXX/MARSHALLS/HOMEGOODS/AJ WRIGHT http://www.tjxmaxx.com/corp_
rewards.asp
THE TALBOTS INC. http://www.talbots.com
TARGET http://www.target.com/corporategiftcards
THE TIMBERLAND CO. http://www.timberland.com/businessdirect
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT http://www.universalorlando.com
VIRTUAL INCENTIVES GROUP INC. http://www.virtualincentivesgroup.com
VISA U.S.A. http://www.visa.com
WALGREENS GIFT CARDS http://www.walgreens.com/about/community/giftcards/faq.jsp
WAYSPA.COM http://www.wayspa.com
WILLIAMS-SONOMA INC. http://www.williams-sonomainc.com

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