Use Your Credit Card to Gift Experiences, Not Things This Christmas
Intangible presents can mean so many things. They can be a charitable donation, or an ebook. They can be a dinner, or even airline miles. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and in some cases they come without a “size” at all.
However, for those looking to gift an experience, and not a thing, you may run into a few road blocks. Not only do you have to decide on which intangible gift to give, you also have to understand how to shop smart for it. Know the do’s and dont’s of gifts cards and coupons, and get creative with the presentation. Some of the best gifts are the ones you can’t touch, and the key is gifting them without downplaying the sentiment.
Experiences You Can Give As Gifts
Intangible gifts don’t have to be less special just because they aren’t traditional gifts. They are a lot more common than you’d think. In our digital age, a lot of our everyday purchases are intangible. These gifts can be an experience, time together, or a donation in that person’s name. If you’re looking for an intangible gift to give, they are a lot more useful and common than you’d think.
- A digital subscription: A digital subscription can be Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, or The New York Times online. Not only that, but using your credit card for this holiday purchase can help you gain reward points and boost credit every month that the subscription is taken from your account.
- Electronic entertainment: This can mean gifting electronic movies, music, or ebooks. Not only are these purchases highly useful, they are also purchases you can easily make online without having to go to the store. Just be sure to take online shopping precautions while shopping online with your credit card.
- Miles or reward points: Many credit cards offer points while using your card. These can include miles, hotel points, cash points, or gift points. Gifting these rewards can mean gifting points worth a lot in dollar value that can be incredibly useful.
- A dinner, trip, or adventure: Gifting a dinner with your parents, a trip to a cabin, or a ziplining adventure as a family may not be easy, but it’s a gift worth a lot more in the memories you’ll gain from it.
- A star: Gifting a star is extremely meaningful, though it’s not exactly something you can wrap in a box. However, it’s something that person can always look up at the night sky and remember.
- A donation: Sometimes the most meaningful gift you can give is a donation to charity in their name. Just be sure to look into the charity first to make sure it’s legitimate. You can also look into other ways to donate in terms of donating food or raising money, and the pros and cons of both. You can even go in on a donation gift with your coworkers.
- An investment: Donating an investment can mean so much more for the person you’re gifting to. Gifting a stock or a savings bond is a way to gift money that can be helpful long term and meant for saving, not spending.
- Time: Gifting your time can mean giving the gift of cleaning your grandma’s house, offering to house sit for your parent’s vacation, or do some small home improvement projects for your sister. Your time is valuable.
Shopping smart for intangible gifts is similar to shopping smart for any sort of gift. Celebrate Christmas on a budget by making sure to plan for your gifting ahead of time. By spreading out your purchases, you can make sure to get gifts for everyone on your list while not completely bankrupting yourself in the process. Fortunately, some of these kinds of gifts can be highly cost effective if you’re on a tight budget – it doesn’t cost anything to take your mom on a walk or rake the leaves for your dad. However, intangible gifts can also be high in dollar value. Either way, though, intangible gifts can mean a lot in terms of sentimental value, which is the point of the gift giving holidays anyway.
Holiday shopping for “things” can be time consuming as well as expensive. Not to mention the stress of Black Friday shopping, or holiday credit cards. Both of those holiday gifting options can be helpful for some shoppers, but harmful to others that get themselves in holiday debt traps. Shop smart by keeping your cost within your budget and considering the fact that the gifts you give don’t have to be expensive or tangible.
Gift Card & Coupon Do’s and Dont’s
Using a gift card or coupon is a great way to turn an intangible gift into a tangible one. Just remember to follow the list of gift card do’s and dont’s. Sometimes these options are not as cut and dry as they seem.
- Do read the fine print: Some gift cards or coupons have cost limits or poor policies in place if it’s lost. Make sure the card you buy doesn’t have any red flags in the fine print.
- Do be sure of the expiration: One big complaint about gift cards is an expiration date. If the expiration is soon, opt for another one.
- Do dress it up: Don’t just give the person a gift card. Make the gift personal by adding a card, a gift card box, or a care package in association with the gift card.
- Don’t pick an inappropriate place: Especially if the gift card is for an office Christmas party event, make sure you choose an appropriate gift card for the occasion.
- Don’t regift: Don’t regift a card you were given and didn’t use. Regifting, except in the event of a white elephant gift exchange, is in poor taste.
- Do put thought behind it: A gift card may seem impersonal, but adding a note that says “I know you love your morning coffee, here’s a coffee gift card for your mornings,” or, “I know you have a job interview soon, here’s a gift card to buy an outfit you love. Good luck at your interview,” will show them that this was a thoughtful gift, not a rushed gift.
How to Wrap an Experience
Gifting an experience seems like a great idea, but how in the world are you supposed to wrap something you can’t hold? Fortunately, with a little creativity, you can make any intangible gift into a tangible one.
- Gift card or coupon: This is obviously a great way to turn something intangible into something tangible. Some may have simple gift card options. For instance, buying your parents dinner can turn into a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Many digital subscriptions also have gift card options, and if your intangible gift doesn’t offer an actual gift card, you can make one yourself. Print off a fake ticket that says “good for one weekend vacation to the lake,” and put it in a card and you’ve created your own gift card or coupon.
- Gift package: Gift packages are great ways to turn something intangible into something tangible. If you’re gifting airline miles, get a gift box and include a sleep mask, plastic airplane, mini liquor bottles, and a DIY ticket to “anywhere” to signify your miles. You can do the same for virtually any gift like this that you give.
- Card: If you’d rather keep the sentiment simple, just outline your gift in a card. The idea is to allow the recipient to have something to open, and they will be able to open a card and see “I’ll be stopping by to cook you dinner every Wednesday this month” to understand the sentiment in your intangible gift.
- Printed documentation: Some gifts do have paper documentation associated with them. If you bought them a star, a donation, or a stock, print off the information about it and put it in a box with some tissue paper so they can read about your intangible gift to them.
Gifts don’t have to be things to be special, gifts can be intangible and mean just as much, or maybe even more than a traditional gift. Think about the types of intangible gifts your loved ones might enjoy, how to shop smart for them, the do’s and dont’s associated with them, and how to wrap a gift that you can’t touch. Fortunately, the sentiment in these experiences mean a lot. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, they just have to come from the heart.
Need more information on credit cards before purchasing the gift of experience? Visit our credit card resource center.
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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5
This post was updated December 11, 2017. It was originally published October 23, 2017.