Use VISA and MasterCard Gift Cards for Christmas Instead of Cash or Check

Do you still send Christmas cards to your relatives with a check or cash tucked inside? If you’re still sending checks, you should see if sending a VISA or MasterCard gift card (in the form of a preloaded debit card would be a better idea. If you’re still sending cash, are you crazy?


Checks are such a pain. In order to cash a check, the recipient either has to go into their bank or withdraw the equivalent amount from an ATM after using it to deposit the check. Either way, it requires an extra trip or an extra leg in a trip.

What happens if the check isn’t any good (for whatever reason)? The recipient isn’t going to be fond of you at the particular moment that fact is discovered.


Back in the 1960s and 1970s and even part of the 1980s, a lot of people sent cash in the mail, and not just for birthdays and Christmas. Some people used to pay their bills that way. As mail theft and other problems started cropping up, checks were used as substitutes.

Unfortunately, some people still send cash in the mail, cleverly hidden within the flaps of a card and in colored envelopes you can’t see through. There are way too many unscrupulous people working in post offices in nearly every country of the world to risk sending cash through the mail. If you’re still doing that, you’re crazy and need to seek professional help.

Use VISA and MasterCard Gift Cards Instead of Store Gift Cards

Have you ever received a store gift card as an actual gift or an award or something? If you have, how many have you received for stores that you’ll never shop at? At my last job, I received numerous store gift cards and because I didn’t shop at those stores, I ended up giving them away.

Almost every store in the US accepts a VISA or MasterCard debit or credit card (there are some exceptions, like membership stores). Wouldn’t it be nice to let the recipient choose where he or she wants to shop as opposed to choosing the store for them?

Where do you get VISA and MasterCard Gift Cards?

I hate to sound condescending, but the second thing you should do is search the web for “visa or mastercard gift cards”. The first thing to do would be to either search for “(insert your bank) gift card” or call your bank to find out if they offer them. Mine does (or did, rather, because I no longer have a US bank account).

If you’re picking an online source that isn’t your bank, or any bank you’ve never heard of, please be careful. As with anything else on the Internet, scammers are out there just waiting for innocent victims to prey upon.

[Originally published in December, 2008]


16 Responses to “Use VISA and MasterCard Gift Cards for Christmas Instead of Cash or Check”

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  1. kouji says:

    true. i find it a bit sad, the idea of receiving a gift card to a place that you never really go to, or whose products you never really buy. seems like such a waste. and especially now that there are other options available, it’s just so much better to give the gift recipient, whether in the philippines or elsewhere, the choice of where to buy and what to purchase.

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  2. Aaron says:

    On top of the safety of using them online, some of the companies actually offer rebates or rewards for buying the gift cards as well.

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  3. Justin says:

    I love Visa Gift Cards, and they’re basically as good as cash. Plus they seem more “gifty” than paper money, so they make better presents.

  4. Tim says:

    I don’t like the store gift cards either. They always seem great, until I take one to whichever store and realize I really am not interested in anything they have at that time. Invariably, I then forget all about the card and the store wins by keeping the money and giving me nothing!

  5. cyril says:

    Christmas is just days away. For the Philippines, G-Cash or Smart Money is a viable option too.

  6. jack says:

    What a great idea – i’ll be asking my mum to send me one of these rather than a sweater this year!

  7. dan says:

    Thanks for the post RT. I don’t even like keeping cash on my person much less sending it in the mail.

  8. aaron says:

    I’ve never sent cash through the mail. Normally, I’d just write out a check and tuck it in the card. I also used to send a gift card for a nice local shop or restaurant, but with all the ones going under I agree that the Visa/MC cards may be the way to go.

  9. Kumi says:

    I never understood what the point of a gift certificate is. Why pay cash for what is basically cash that can only be used at ONE store?

    Christmas is full of scams…

    This prepaid card idea is fine though. Always love getting cash as a gift!

  10. Caz says:

    I tend to stay away from store cards as well. Nothing like a cash back credit card:)

  11. richd63 says:

    To me whoever came up with the ideas of gift cards was only thinking about his own bottom line. At the end the day we all know that most the cards that get awarded as gifts never get used and end up in the trash or get expired. The store provider of the card is therefore always the winner. What a waste!

  12. Darrin says:

    I’ve heard that there are some scams with these visa gift cards. I don’t remember what it was but I think it had something to do with expiration dates or something. It was all over the news awhile back.

    The downside of this is it teaches kids that using credit cards is a good thing. Which could cause a whole generation of problems with people and debt.

    • RT Cunningham says:

      There’s already a problem with young adults, so it won’t get any worse. Besides, visa gift cards are not credit cards and anyone who thinks they’re the same thing is going to have problems anyway.

  13. Mista says:

    There’s a great site that lists $500 gift cards for auction up to $400 max. That’s $100 in free merchandise –

  14. Smith says:

    Yeah! I completely agree to what author says. MasterCard and Visa offer both prepaid gift cards and prepaid general purpose cards and they are the most convenient and flexible than gift cards that are meant only for specific merchants and vendors. The best thing I like about these cards are they are accepted anywhere and can be used for both online and offline purchases.

  15. Peter says:

    Awesome idea! Using visa gift card gives people the freedom to buy what they want: online, in person or by phone. This sounds a classy idea of gifting cash to someone via a card. Thanks for sharing this post!