Travel Gift Cards - Should You Buy One?

Travel gift cards make excellent presents.
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What is a Travel Gift Card?

Travel gift cards are becoming more and more popular because they are easy to buy and convenient to use. You can use a travel gift card the same way you would use a gift card from your favorite store or restaurant. It comes with a predetermined value. Funds are deducted from the gift card as you use it.

Should You Buy Plastic Card or E-Gift Card?

There are two types of travel gift cards: traditional plastic cards and electronic, or e-gift, cards. Plastic gift cards look just like the restaurant or store gift card you received from Cousin Sally last Christmas. They are the same size as a credit card and must be presented to the travel provider to be redeemed. You can order them from a travel provider and have them sent directly to the recipient.

Plastic travel gift cards are easy to use and can be stored with other cards in a wallet or purse. If you lose your gift card, the seller will not replace it, so you must guard the card carefully.

Electronic travel gift cards, or e-cards, are delivered via email, so you must have the recipient's correct email address before you place your order. The seller will not assume responsibility for incorrectly-delivered electronic gift cards. You can order electronic travel gift cards at the last minute because they are sent to the recipient as soon as your payment is processed, making e-gift cards a convenient last-minute option.

Electronic gift cards arrive in your email inbox and include a code or gift card number that you must use to redeem the e-card. The recipient will need to print out the gift card and have this number available when making a travel reservation. Electronic travel gift cards are nearly impossible to lose as long as you save the email. If you misplace the certificate, you can simply print another copy.

What Types of Travel Gift Cards Can I Buy?

Many hotel chains and airlines, including Best Western, MarriottAmerican Airlines and Southwest Airlines, sell travel gift cards. You can usually order them from the hotel or airline's website; some are available in grocery and retail stores as well. You can also buy Airbnb gift cards in stores or online from sellers such as Amazon and Paypal.

If your loved ones enjoy cruising, you can give them a cruise gift card. Individual cruise lines typically sell "onboard gifts," which are specific items or services, such as flowers or a massage. Some cruise lines also sell shipboard credit gift certificates. A few, including Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises, offer gift cards through their websites and, in some cases, PayPal.

You can also give someone a restaurant or sightseeing gift card. is the best-known of the restaurant gift card websites. Individual restaurant chains, including Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, also sell gift cards. CityPass ticket booklets make a great gift for the avid sightseer. You can buy CityPass booklets for 12 different cities in the US and Canada. Each booklet includes a certain number of tickets for attractions; by buying the CityPass booklet, you save money on each attraction.

Ground transportation gift cards are also available. You can buy Uber and Amtrak gift cards online. Canada's ViaRail sells gift cards at most of its railroad stations and at participating Pharmasave and International News stores.

Does a Travel Gift Card Ever Expire?

Some travel gift cards do not have expiration dates. Others must be used within a certain time period. Check the terms and conditions of the gift card carefully before you make your purchase.

What Else Should I Know About Buying a Travel Gift Card?

Each travel provider's terms and conditions are different, so you need to read those terms and conditions before you buy a gift card. 

If you are purchasing a travel gift card in a foreign currency and you pay by credit card, you will probably be charged a transaction fee. Foreign transaction fees are typically a percentage of the sales price, and are charged by your credit card company even if the gift card seller is located in your own country.

Some travel gift card sellers allow you to create a customized, one-of-a-kind travel card. If you select this option and upload a photo to use on the card, be sure you hold the copyright to the image.

Isn't a Travel Gift Card a Boring Gift?

Not if you like to travel. A travel gift card might be the perfect present for a college-age grandchild, niece or nephew. Travel gift cards make excellent engagement, wedding and retirement gifts, too.


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