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The holiday shopping season is coming — and with it, the pressure to find gifts for your favorite and hardest-to-shop-for people. Why take wild guess and risk a regifting situation (or worse, a post-holiday return and exchange trip), when you can make it easy on both of you by getting them something they’ll actually use? Yes, we’re talking about gift cards, but it doesn’t have to be as impersonal as it sounds.
How to Choose the Best Gift Cards
You could stock up on generic restaurant gift cards and call it a day, but that might not go well for those with picky palates (read: foodies) or people who live in areas where said eatery isn’t available. Gift certificates to retailers with online and brick-and-mortar shopping is an easy way to please the most particular pals on your list.
The best gift cards don’t have to be wrapped or even delivered in person. All of our picks on this list offer e-gift cards that can be purchased, sent and redeemed online. They’re great if you don’t feel like braving the crowds at the mall or if you have a recipient who may not be a store-bought-gift-type. A bonus: gifts cards make for a great last-minute gift too.
What Are the Best Gifts Cards?
Here, we’ve rounded up ideas for the best gift cards to buy for a range of recipients, from fitness fanatics and travel enthusiasts to friends and family who are thirsty for knowledge and wine.
1. Blue Apron Gift Card
Give someone the gift of home cooking this season with a gift card to Blue Apron. A $120 card gets them a two-week delivery of Blue Apron’s most popular two-serving meal plan. Your recipient gets three recipes a week, with everything you need to create a meal for two.
What we like: your recipient can choose from a variety of menu options, from signature offerings that include popular meat, chicken and fish dishes (think pork roasts and hearty curries), to a vegetarian option for delicious meat-free dinners. Blue Apron’s dishes are health-focused and made from fresh, carefully-selected ingredients, with diabetes-friendly recipes and WW-approved meal plans too.
Want to send dinner to an entire family? Send them a Blue Apron gift card and apply it to Blue Apron’s “Signature for 4” plan, with recipes to feed up to four people.
2. Guitar Center Gift Card
Shopping for a musician who’s particular about their gear? Regardless of their preferred instrument, a Guitar Center gift card will let them pick their own brand-spanking new drum sticks, synthesizers, tuners, pedals, or whatever’s pulling at their musically-inclined heartstrings.
3. Apple Gift Card
One of the most versatile gift cards available online, an Apple gift card lets you purchase everything from music downloads, to accessories, apps, games, movies, TV shows, iCloud storage and more. Send a gift card by email, and your recipient can use it at any Apple store, in the Apple Store app or online at apple.com. They can load it into their Apple wallet balance and use it to reload an existing gift card as well. This is one of our favorite gift cards to send to someone; whether it’s for a colleague, neighbor, friend or family member, an Apple gift card is always appreciated.
4. CLEAR Gift Card
As people start slowly easing back into travel, only one gift card can help them avoid the crowds and lines at the airport. The CLEAR gift card is the perfect gift for both casual travelers and frequent fliers alike. Use the gift card towards an annual CLEAR membership, which lets you breeze through airport security by skipping the general security line and using a dedicated members-only lane. CLEAR is also a touch-less process, using biometrics — like your eyes and face — to identify you, rather than physical papers and documents.
What we like: while CLEAR is a clear winner these days at the airport (no pun intended), you’ll also be able to use CLEAR to bypass lines at stadiums and concession stands, when sporting events start up again.
The CLEAR gift card is an unexpected but much-appreciated gift for the traveler in your life. A one-year membership costs $179 but you can use the code HOLIDAY right now for $50 off your purchase. Once they sign-up, your recipient just needs to present a valid government-issued ID to a CLEAR location (I.e. at the airport) to verify and confirm their status.
5. Target Gift Card
You can’t go wrong with a gift card from Target. The mass retailer has something for everyone in need of restocks, from home essentials like furniture by celebrity interior designers and non-toxic cleaning products to stylish closet staples and office supplies. You can send a Target gift card via email, snail mail, or even text.
6. Backcountry eGift Certificate
Outdoorsy types will be eager to restock their wardrobes for winter and spring (and perhaps take advantage of the end-of-season sales), so a gift card to Backcountry will come in handy. The online retailer offers a range of apparel, footwear, accessories, gear, and more for your adventure seeker’s favorite activities, be it climbing, hiking, camping, cycling, and beyond.
7. East Dane Gift Card
If you believe the old Yves Saint Laurent adage, “Fashions fade, style is eternal,” then you know that whatever sartorial gift you buy this season might be buried in someone’s closet before the year ends. For the stylish, designer-loving guys on your list, an East Dane gift card is one stylish solution, and recipients can shop menswear from a cool roster of cult-favorite luxury labels and streetwear brands ranging from Coach and Champion to Levi’s and Lacoste, to name just a few.
You can also opt for an online gift certificate to the e-retailer’s womenswear sister site, Shopbop.
8. Nike Gift Card
For the friend that pushes themselves to work out harder and smarter every year, or the sneakerhead who’s always ready to stock up on new kicks, a Nike gift card can cover their latest high-performance gear or their AF1 addiction. You can choose digital gift card designs ranging from the classic swoosh to the logo of your recipient’s favorite team.
9. Parachute Gift Card
Breathable, comfortable bedsheets might not be the first essentials that people think to splurge on, so give the gift of luxurious sleep to your favorite folks who could use some good shut-eye. We love snoozing on Parachute‘s soft-as-a-cloud linens, but the L.A.-based company also make cozy towels and other home goods that will elevate your holiday giftee’s abode. With a gift card, your recipient gets to choose.
10. MasterClass One-Year All-Access Pass
If your giftee’s mantra is “knowledge is power,” contribute to their brain matter fund with a one-year, all-access pass to MasterClass. The online learning platform features classes helmed by the who’s who of across a range of industries, meaning subscribers can get schooled in photography by Annie Leibovitz, business strategy by Bob Iger, filmmaking by Martin Scorcese, and science by Neil deGrasse Tyson, among many, many other courses from over 90 celebrities, industry leaders and yes, “masters.”
11. Steam Gift Card
Shopping for a gamer? Rather than picking up something they’ve already played (and won), let them choose their own adventure — whether it be action, sports, an RPG, or even an oddly soothing game about a goose — and get them a gift card from Steam.
12. Nintendo Switch Online Membership
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” was the unexpected mid-pandemic video game hit of the year — and if your loved one’s still building away on their virtual island (or maybe they’re more of a Mario Kart fan), they’ll likely appreciate another year of Nintendo Switch Online.
13. Wine Insiders Gift Card
Even if you don’t agree on which varietal is superior, you can still send a thoughtful gift to your beloved oenophile with a subscription to Wine Insiders. The vino delivery service sends an intro box of 15 reds, whites, or a mix, and then 12 more bottles about every three months until you (or your giftee) decides to cancel. If that’s too much of a commitment, you can also shop exclusive selections curated by celebrity partners including Martha Stewart and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian — think everything from Mediterranean-made chianti and sauvignon blanc to California classics.
14. Atlas Coffee Subscription
If you’re stumped on what to get your favorite third-wave coffee connoisseur (hint: ditch the Starbucks gift card), earn cool points and get them an Atlas Coffee subscription. Whether they prefer a fruity-meets-chocolate dark roast or single-origin beans, home baristas can personalize their delivery and receive a curation of single-origin coffee from over 50 countries. The service sends a six- or 12-ounce bag of whole or ground beans each month. A three-month subscription is just $60.
15. Sun Basket Gift Card
Come New Year’s, everyone will be resolving to eat healthier, so make it easier for your favorite home chefs to whip up nutritious, tasty meals and get them a gift card to a clean-eating food delivery service like Sun Basket. They send fresh ingredients and fun meal ideas for every taste and dietary preference, from vegan to gluten-free and everything – and everyone – in between.
This is also a great gift for people who may not have the means to cook for themselves right now. A $200 gift card covers two full weeks of Sun Basket meals for two people (with three recipes per week).
16. ClassPass Gift Card
Another popular resolution? Getting in shape — and if your fitness junkie prefers to switch up their sweat routines (whether it’s boxing, CrossFit, Pilates, or yoga), then a gift of ClassPass can help them change up gyms while meeting their workout goals. The online wellness booking platform offers an expansive network of boutique fitness studios across the world and allows users to book in-person and virtual classes as well as skin and body treatments.
17. Criterion Gift Card
Film fanatics can catch up on classic and contemporary works on DVD or Blu-Ray with a Criterion gift card. From Oscar-winning movie Parasite and Jean-Luc Godard’s digitally restored Pierrot le fou to Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films and more, Criterion’s collection promises something for every type of cinema lover.
For those who prefer to stream their movies, try a Criterion Channel subscription instead.
18. Airbnb Gift Card
For the avid travelers on your list, a gift card for Airbnb can help pay for their next getaway. If your pal isn’t ready to get out of town, they can book a staycation or one-of-a-kind experiences ranging from guided sunrise hikes led by local experts to a virtual leopard safari in Sri Lanka.