Gift cards make holiday shopping easy. And if you’re in a holiday rush, it’s even easier to give a digital gift card via text, e-mail or Facebook. You need a smart phone or Internet access -- plus a credit or debit card -- to send the card. The recipient gets a text or e-mail with a bar code that he or she can print out or scan at the store.
For smart-phone users, Target lets you buy and text virtual cards with its mobile app (you need a free Target.com account). Dunkin’ Donuts lets you send gift cards via text, e-mail or Facebook using its mobile app. American Eagle Outfitters lets you text a gift card to the recipient’s smart phone from its Web site.
Far more retailers allow you to e-mail gift cards. For someone who loves clothes, send a Macy’s or Gap card. Those looking for furniture and home décor could use an eGift card from West Elm. For bookworms, Amazon and Barnes & Noble also let you e-mail gift cards. If you have an American Express account, you can e-mail a gift card that can be used like cash wherever American Express is accepted.
None of these digital cards charge a fee or expire. But if you receive one, use it soon. Like a plastic gift card you stick in a drawer, it can be forgotten if it languishes in your in-box.
This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.