Travel Gift Card - 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. 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 pre-purchased value, and 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 and electronic.

Plastic gift cards look just like the 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 the 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.

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.

You will need to print out the gift card and have this number available when you make your 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, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, sell travel gift cards.

You can usually order them from the hotel or airline's website. You can also buy bed and breakfast gift cards from You can buy some travel gift cards in grocery stores, too.

If your loved ones enjoy cruising, you can give them a cruise gift card. and Cruise Brothers sell cruise gift certificates that can be applied to any cruise they offer. 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.

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 Romano's Macaroni Grill, also sell gift cards. CityPass ticket booklets make a great gift for the avid sightseer. You can buy CityPass booklets for 11 different cities in the US and Canada.

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, typically a percentage of the sales price, 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.