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If you’re a business owner, you’re probably well aware of the effects that an awesome gift can have on the morale of an employee. Whether as a reward for a job well done, an early Christmas gift, or a special present for their work anniversary, employees love getting surprised by gifts from their employers.

And over the years, these gifts have taken many different forms. Some employers like to give out plaques and trophies, and some like to give presents like computers, widescreen TVs, or other luxury items. Others eschew presents entirely – instead just cutting checks to employees as bonuses.

And while these are all certainly viable options for rewarding employees, there’s one method of gifting that’s more popular than everything else – gift cards.

Employees love getting gift cards – and giving an awesome gift card to one of your most valued employees is a fantastic way to incentive or reward them, and make them feel great about their job.

So to help you understand the world of gift card incentives and choose the right cards and appropriate occasions to give them to your employees, we’ve put together this simple guide to giving gift cards as incentives and rewards.

Why Should I Give Gift Cards Instead Of Cash?

Employees almost universally prefer gift cards over cash for employee incentives, but many employers are unaware of the benefits of handing out gift cards – rather than cash rewards.

But there are quite a few reasons why gift cards are often a better choice than cash. Let’s discuss them now.

  • Processing Checks Can Be Expensive – Even issuing a single check can cost an employer up to $25, depending on the services they use, the time spent issuing the check, and the delivery method of the check. This means that instead of a $50 check, you could offer an employee a $75 gift card as a reward – and still spend the same amount of money on the incentive.
  • Cash Doesn’t Feel Like A “Gift” – Here’s the thing about a cash bonus. It’s nice to have – but it feels like compensation. Employees are used to being paid for their work, so a cash payment doesn’t really feel like a “gift”, or like a special reward. Because cash payments don’t really feel special, employees are often a bit underwhelmed by their presents, especially if they’re for a relatively low dollar amount.

    Gift cards, on the other hand, aren’t seen as “compensation” at all. They’re seen as a special gift – and employees are likely to go out and spend them and feel great about their reward.
  • Cash Gifts Aren’t Immediate Or Physical – Even if you do give cash rewards to your employees, you probably don’t just hand them a stack of $20 bills. No, you’re running a business – and money must be accounted for, and dealt with properly. This means that you probably won’t end up giving cash to your employees at all – you’ll just tell them that a check is on the way.

    Because of this, a cash gift isn’t immediate or physical – the employee has nothing to look at to confirm that they’ve been rewarded. A cash gift isn’t something that they can really hold in their hands and look at, or feel good about.Handing someone a gift card is a different matter altogether. If someone told you that you had a $100 check in the mail, you might be happy – but when you get handed a $100 gift card to your favorite store and you can spend it right away, you’re much more likely to be excited and surprised.
  • Gift Cards Can Be Purchased Anywhere At Any Time – Gift cards are an incredibly convenient method of rewarding employees because they can be purchased just about anywhere at any time. You can go to a local grocery store and purchase hundreds of gift cards – or even buy an e-gift card from an online merchant like Amazon instantly.Because of this, you can reward employees immediately when they perform well. You don’t have to wait for a check – you can just run out, get a gift card, and give it to your employee. It’s convenient and easy, and your employee will certainly be grateful.
  • Gift Cards Are Never Wasted – Even If You Don’t Give Them All Away – Has your company ever given away branded items as incentives? Things like customized polo shirts, travel mugs, and fountain pens? Chances are that you invested quite a bit of money in those items – but you’ll never really be able to give them all away. They’ll probably go to waste, and be thrown away eventually.However, gift cards are never wasted. Even if you buy too many, you’ll have up to 5 years to give them away before they expire, and if you really don’t need them anymore, you can sell them to third-party gift card buyers, and recoup most of your investment.And if you’re partnered with a store for a large-scale gift card program, you may only have to pay for gift cards once they’re activated – so you don’t have to worry about wasting any money on unused cards.

So there you have it – 5 great reasons that your incentive program should use gift cards instead of cash. But that’s not the end of the story. Next, it’s time to consider when you should be giving gift cards to your employees, in order to maximize their impact and encourage better performance.

When Should I Think About Giving Gift Cards To My Employees?

The most common time to give a gift card to an employee is after a big project, or when a specific sales goal or target has been met. And this is a great time to give a gift card – your employee will certainly appreciate it.

But why stop there? There are plenty of opportunities you have as an employer to boost morale with an awesome gift! Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking about how you can use gift cards as rewards in your workplace.

  • As A Surprise “Pat On The Back” – One of the best things about gift cards is that you can keep a stack of them in your desk, and reward people who deserve it – whenever you want! If you notice someone working extra hard, putting in overtime, or being helpful when one of their coworkers needed assistance, you can reward them with a gift card! It’s easy to expense these gift cards, and your employees will appreciate being noticed for a job well done.
  • To Thank An Employee During The Holidays – Gift cards are a great present for your employees during the winter holiday season. Usually, your employees will be thinking about all of the shopping they have to do for their families – and providing them with a gift card is a great way to reduce their holiday expenses, or allow them to buy themselves something nice.
  • As A Birthday Present – As we get older, our birthdays start to feel less special. That’s just a fact of life. But giving a valued employee a gift card on their birthday is sure to make their day – and they’ll probably appreciate it more than a surprise birthday party, or a cake that you’ve put in the breakroom.
  • For Work Anniversaries – Usually, employees expect some kind of celebration for huge career milestones, such as spending 5 or 10 years with the same company. However, they don’t usually expect their employers to give them something every year – but they certainly will appreciate it if you do!

    Keep track of your employee’s work anniversaries, and hand out a gift card to each employee when they’ve made it another year at your company. This is a great way to reward them for sticking around, and to make it clear that you realize how long they’ve been with your company, and that you appreciate their work.
  • To Make A New Employee Feel Appreciated – Starting a new job is totally stressful. Often, a new hire will be so buried in learning about their job and taking on new work that they won’t feel very confident. Giving a gift card to a new employee after a week or two on the job is a great way to boost their confidence, and make them feel appreciated – even if they’re still having a tough time learning the ropes.Employee Appreciation
  • As A Reward After A Stressful Week – Do you have a project manager who’s been working night and day to get a crucial client project done? An accountant who’s been working overtime to get your year-end sales figures in the books? An IT employee who’s spent the last two days trying to fix your phone system?Consider giving them a gift card as a way to thank them for their hard work – and to help them relax and restore themselves after a particularly difficult workweek.These are just a few ideas. Once you’ve started using gift cards as incentives, you’ll certainly come up with plenty of awesome gifting opportunities on your own – the sky’s the limit!

What Are The Best Gift Cards To Buy As Incentives And Rewards?

Not all gift cards are built alike. It’s best to choose gift cards that are quite general, and can be spent on a wide variety of goods and services. This will allow your employees to have flexibility and choice when using the gift card you gave them, and it will make the gift feel more special.

It’s also best to be mindful of your employees, and select appropriate gifts for incentives. While some may appreciate gift cards to salons or spas, others may be put off by the intimacy of an employer giving away such a gift card.

Here’s a quick rule you can use to determine whether or not a gift card is appropriate to give an employee. Would it be appropriate to give to your mother? If not, you probably shouldn’t give it to an employee.

To help you as you choose, here are a few great choices for employee incentive gift cards.

  • Amazon.com – It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong with an Amazon gift card. Amazon sells just about everything under the sun, and at great prices. Giving an Amazon gift card is a great way to maximize flexibility, and offer your employees plenty of choices when spending the value of the card.
  • VISA and MasterCard Gift Cards – VISA and MasterCard gift cards are a great way to give a “same-as-cash” gift without having to bother with cutting a check. These cards can be spent just like credit or debit cards, and offer great flexibility. One drawback is that they’re usually a bit more expensive, and cost $2-$5 to activate – but that’s still cheaper than giving a check to an employee.
  • Starbucks – Starbucks gift cards are fantastic if you’re looking for a lower-value gift card that’s still always going to be appreciated by employees. After all, who doesn’t love free coffee?
  • Department Stores – If you work in a professional setting, a gift to a department store is a great way to reward your employees, and allow them to purchase new clothes – whether for work, or for play.
  • Electronics Stores – Everybody always wants to have the latest and greatest gadgets, so a gift card to a retailer like Best Buy will always be appreciated by employees. They can use it to go towards a new television, computer, smartphone, or dozens of other electronic items.
  • Big-Box Stores Like Target And Walmart – A gift card to a huge retailer like Target or Walmart is always a good choice. These stores offer just about everything – from clothing to sporting goods to electronics, video games, and more. This allows your employees to get whatever they want – you won’t have to worry about your gift going to waste.

There are certainly plenty of other options to choose from, but if you pick one of these suggestions, you’ll never go wrong when giving a gift card to your employees.

Got Gift Cards You Don’t Want? Sell Them At EJ Gift Cards Now!

Whether you’re an employee with a gift card you don’t need, or an employer looking to turn some old incentive gift cards into cash, EJ Gift Cards is a fantastic choice!

We’re the #1 direct gift card buyer on the market. We accept hundreds of different cards, and we pay out cash through PayPal. No waiting for checks in the mail!

So if you’ve got a stack of unwanted gift cards in a drawer somewhere, don’t let them go to waste. Visit EJ Gift Cards today, and turn those cards into cash!