Gift card

A gift card, also referred to as gift card, electronic gift card or as a shopping card, is a special type of credit card that is used in retail. Gift cards are designed to replace paper-based vouchers. If these online output as PDF, they are called eGiftCard.


The cards almost always have the form of a payment or credit card. The gift card is not issued in the name of a person, but is labeled with a unique number and can be used by any owner. The number is readable by barcode, magnetic stripe or an RFID chip. Gift Cards can be like other credit cards charged by payment of certain amounts. The vouchers entitle the respective holders, in the amount of the booked amount on the card upon acceptance of partner (usually the branches of a retail chain ) shop.

System Description

Gift cards are part of a system for the electronic voucher processing. The system consists of the gift card itself and the authorization, and accounting system. The authorization of the Gift Card Transactions online usually takes place against a central server.

The processing of gift cards is done via online authorization. For this purpose, the transaction data in real time are led by the sale to a central server. There, the unique gift account is recognized and changed according to the type of transaction, the account balance. All sales places a system group receive online access to this data. The various transactions are essentially:

  • Charging: acquisition of the card or first-time depositing a credit to the card account at point of sale
  • Discharge: Shopping with the card, transfer the purchase amount and the corresponding adjustment of the account balance of the card
  • Recharging: Re- depositing of a credit balance on the card account
  • Balance Inquiry: The customer has the opportunity to inquire about the status of his account card either locally at the point of sale via the Internet or via a hotline
  • Cancellation: charging and discharging of the map can usually be updated daily canceled at the point of sale

Market situation

Currently, the market for gift cards are three different models:

The classic version is referred to as closed-loop system. Here, the customer acquires a license issued by the retail gift card that can be redeemed in the stores of the respective retail company.

In contrast, it is at an open- loop system is a network of different participants. Open -loop systems are often mapped using existing credit card systems such as American Express, Visa or MasterCard. In this case, a plurality of acceptance of digits can be used worldwide. In this type of credit card- based systems is often charged an activation and / or handling fee.

The third model is the semi- or hybrid open-loop system. Here, various closed-loop systems are offered by a point of sale cards. Examples can be found in the form of so-called Gift Card Gift Card Malls and shops. These models are already firmly entrenched in the Anglo-American market. In Germany, the 2008 model was introduced by Retailo.

While the market for paper vouchers stagnated in Germany for years, the gift card since its introduction could be booked on the U.S. market sharply rising sales figures. A year after its launch nearly three billion U.S. dollars in sales were achieved with the sale of gift cards in 1998. 2003, sales rose to nearly 40 billion U.S. dollars.

Gift cards as collectibles

Gift cards have now become a popular collector's item. They have a handy format and customers may keep the cards after redemption of the credit mostly. In addition, some companies began to issue various motifs around seasonal occasions to appreciate. Increased demand of collectors meant that some companies discovered the collector as a target group and designed an attractive design for the cards. There are now cards in non- rectangular shape or with special image effects (eg change image maps of Galeria Kaufhof ). In Germany bring large retail chains such as Thalia cards with motifs city of cities out of their branches. The Media-Saturn -Holding has a total of 1766 worldwide (as of 2013) published several motives.

An online catalog can be found on Colnect. A lot of the gift card collectors had previously specialized in phone cards.

For companies, the gift card is for a an advertising medium, on the other hand, a customer loyalty is achieved because collectors often buy cards with balances in order to get the appropriate motif. Attractively designed motifs can also lead to word of mouth.


EGiftCards are trading coupons that can be printed and can be redeemed in the stores of each dealer. Also known by the name voucher for self-printing, PDF voucher or gift card for self-expression.

Use and acceptance

The consumer buys the eGiftCard mostly in the online shop of the retailer and prints them after receipt by e -mail. This term is usually given away and can then be used in the stores of the retailer and partly also in the online shop. According to a 2011 study conducted by First Data under 2,100 U.S. citizens 12 % have ever bought an eGiftCard and 14% receive an eGiftCard. 48% of respondents were interested in principle to obtain an eGiftCard. If you already have an eGiftCard was obtained, this was redeemed at 43% in trade and 33% in the Online Shop ( Missing 100%: Not specified / Do not know).