A gift card is a scrip or monetary substitute with restrictions that is given out by banks or retailers. It is often given instead of a non-monetary present. This highly used card is ranked among the most popular presents given by consumers in the United States. It is also one of the most-wanted presents by women. These are so popular because they removed the need for gift card buyers to select a specific present. Recipients can then use it to their own discretion as it fits within the restrictions put in place by the issuing company.
Blockbuster Entertainment is credited with introducing these products in the 1990. The launch of these units came as a replacement to gift certificates, which were frequently counterfeited at the time. Other companies follow the lead and today, the majority of retail companies have these available for purchase.
The cards are much like credit cards in their appearance. Each is assigned a specific number or code linked to it. In general, the names are not included on the actual unit and are usable by anyone.
Usually there is a bar code or magnetic strip installed, allowing the units to be used in basic credit machines. They are authorized by way of an electronic system. Some can be reloaded and used many times. Often, the gift card buyers buy the unit, there may be additional fees, and the receiver then uses the value for other transactions.
Most of these units have no monetary value until they are sold. When purchased, cashiers will enter the amount desired by the customer. The value is then stored in the database for the company and not listed on the physical unit. In order to prevent counterfeiting, the data is encrypted. The strip on the card is typically set up in a different way than that found on credit cards so they cannot be written or read using standard machines. Others may have a specific value that must be activated.
These units are classified as network and closed loop or open loop. The former is issued by a specific restaurant or store and can only be redeemed through that specific issuing agency. These kinds have fewer issues related to loss of value or additional fees. The latter refers to units given out by credit companies or banks that are redeemable at a variety of establishments. Another form is the hybrid closed loop in which the issuer bundles numerous close loop cards. An example of this would be units that have been issued for a specific mall.
Certificates are not the same. These usually have a physical form as a paper document. On that documentation is authorized signature from the restaurant, store or establishment. This acts as a voucher for products or services. No electronic authorization is necessary and there are usually no additional fees. Some of these include expiration dates and others do not.
Gift cards are available in many different forms and through various businesses. Most gift card buyers purchase these units to allow the recipient to spend the value how they see fit. The buyers choose the value they want to give and recipients can spend that value however they want within the unit restrictions.
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