Redeem Gift Cards on Your Cell Phone and Ditch the Plastic

gift card pile photo

Photo by Wonderdawg777 via Flickr CC

I have a few issues with gift cards. First, they're little plastic cards that people rarely ever refill and therefore are basically single-use items. The recycling rate on these is probably very low (though the options for using them in crafts for upcycled items are endless). And finally, there's the issue of all the packaging created just for giving gift cards, from metal tins to elaborate cards and cases, because apparently simply handing someone a gift card it's good enough. GiftRocket is a new service that let's you leave little plastic gift cards behind -- you simply redeem your card with your cell phone.

giftrocket image

Image via GiftRocket screengrab
GiftRocket is a less direct way of giving and receiving gift cards, since the money isn't loaded on to the card and withdrawn from it at point of purchase. But it's nearly as direct. Instead of a little plastic card, the funds go through PayPal.

GiftRocket explains it like this:

1. Say you get a $20 GiftRocket to Bill's Tacos
2. When you're at Bill's Tacos, press "redeem" on your smartphone
3. You get $20 in your PayPal account

GiftRocket checks you're there using your smartphone's GPS. If you don't have a PayPal account, PayPal will autocreate one when you redeem. Pay as usual - the money is in your account.

So rather than going to the business, the money from the gift card comes to you. Most likely you're not going to use PayPal to pay a check at a restaurant, so you'll pay the bill yourself and collect what is essentially a reimbursement from PayPal.

A GiftRocket can be redeemed anywhere, as long as the location has a review on Yelp. And as for giving a GiftRocket, the company takes 5% on top of the gift value, so you pay just a little extra for the added convenience of the service, but the recipient gets the full gift amount.

"We tried to replicate what people do with gift cards as closely as we could, and then make it frictionless," Kapil Kale, who co-founded GiftRocket with his Dartmouth College classmate Nick Baum and their Stanford University friend Jonathan Pines, told Xconomy. "Our central belief is that a gift card is for a person, and the money should be going to the person, not directly to a retailer."

Because the funds are redeemed when you're at the location for which the gift was given, you can spend as much or as little as you'd like at that location and spend any remaining money on something else. It's more flexible than gift cards, and a whole lot less wasteful. Another feature I like is the fact that a GiftRocket can't get lost or stolen -- s long as you have your cell phone, you're able to use GiftRocket.

I haven't tried it yet, but if you have, let us know what you think -- is it better than little plastic cards?

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More on Less Wasteful Gifts
Are Gift Cards the New Bottled Water?
The Anti-Gift List: 15 Things Everyone Gets and No One Needs
How to Give a Great Gift Without the Waste

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