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I'm considering sending gift cards as presents to my friends and family. There are so many to choose from. Are all gift cards alike? If not, what are the major differences?

Gift cards include prepaid or stored value cards that are designed to be purchased by one consumer (purchaser) and presented as a gift to a second consumer (recipient). The terms and conditions of gift cards can vary.

Two categories of gift cards are retail gift cards and bank-issued gift cards:

  • A retail gift card is typically offered by a major retail, entertainment, food-service, or other company to be used at establishments owned and operated by that company.
  • A bank-issued gift card is typically issued by a bank and carries the logo of a payment card network such as Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. These cards can be used at establishments and businesses that accept cards that access those networks.

Last Reviewed: April 2021

Please note: The terms "bank" and "banks" used in these answers generally refer to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches or agencies of foreign banking organizations that are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Find out if the OCC regulates your bank. Information provided on should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion of the OCC.

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