10 Best Gift Cards for the College Student on Your List

I am a huge fan of gift cards, and think that they make much better gifts than arbitrary stuff that I don't really need. They do lack the charm and personality of a hand picked gift, but that usually flies out the window when I have in my hands this tiny piece of plastic that I can use to buy what I want, when I want. And this year, if you are looking for a gift for that college student on your list, here are some great ideas for what gift cards will be a hit!

  1. Amazon.com: This is undeniably going to be the most popular choice. Amazon offers such a range of options that it can satisfy the needs of most people, not just college students. But for college students in particular the choice of books, CDs, DVDs, games, cell phones and a lot of the items that they will use on a daily basis is incredible. Add to that Amazon’s free shipping policies for purchases over $25, and you have on your hands the making of an ideal gift.

  2. Ikea: If your college grad is just starting out or moving out of the dorm into an off-campus housing, then this is certainly the way to go. Ikea has a lot of low priced inexpensive furniture with a modern take that many college students like. One thing to note though is that if there is no physical Ikea location close by then the shipping policies by Ikea are not all that great and may eat away into the gift budget.

  3. Best Buy, Circuit City or Fry’s: Many college students love cool electronic gadgets. And there are tons of new toys coming out every year that you may not even be aware of. So giving a gift card to an electronics store and letting them take their pick is surely going to be a great gift, if your college grad loves tech toys.

  4. iTunes: If your college grad has an iPod, this is sure to please them to no end. On the other hand, if they don’t have an iPod and you have a big enough budget, then throw in an iPod with the iTunes gift card and you will be their hero for a long time to come!

  5. Gift card to favorite restaurants: Most college students are perpetually broke. Eating out is usually a luxury that is much looked forward to. So if you know the favorite restaurant that the gift receiver likes, then buying a gift card to that restaurant is bound to be a sure fire hit.

  6. Gift card to a travel site: This may be a gift they may not appreciate right away, especially if they have traveled a lot to meet you. But come spring break time, which is not that far from Christmas, you are bound to receive a huge “Thank You” note :)

  7. Mall: The local malls in my area allow me to buy a gift card that is good in all the stores within that mall. If your college grad was a big spender before she/he went to college and got all sobered up due to the high cost of tuition and text books, they are bound to enjoy an evening of splurging at your expense.

  8. Gas Cards: With the gas prices starting to climb up again, and the prices of crude oil showing no signs that this will slow down in the near future, this is a great gift. It does not have the wow effect like many of the other gift cards on this list, but if you are a family with a history of practical gift-giving, then this is bound to be better appreciated than a pack of socks or ill-fitting clothes.

  9. Local grocery store (Walmart, Target, HEB etc.): While we are on the topic of practical gifts, we may as well cover the gift cards to local grocery store. Personally, I would hate to receive a gift card to a grocery store, since I already have a budget for grocery shopping and can get it done even without the help. Any other gift card in the list so far, let’s me “indulge” but the grocery store gift card is just too practical to be any fun. But like I said, if your family has a history of giving practical gifts, then this is something you might want to consider.

  10. The good old Visa Cash Card: Finally, if you just can’t decide, go for the good old Visa debit card. They are as good as cash and can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. Depending on who you are giving it to, this could be treated as the king of all gifts, or the most impersonal cop-out ever! Your call :)

Do you like receiving gift cards? What are some of the “best” gift cards that you have received?


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Broke Grad Student said...

Great list. If I had to settle for a gift card, Amazon would be on the top of my list too. Make sure the card is at least $25 though, so they get free shipping.

I personally prefer other gifts though. In fact, I recently compiled a list of 9 great gift ideas for a broke college student.

limeade said...

We've gotten gift cards to Target and they're great. They also sell pretty much everything, plus you can get some of your groceries there as well if really want to be frugal about it.

My wife also likes it because all of their stuff matches and is higher quality than some other places.

Anonymous said...

As nice as gift cards are, I've found both in giving and in being the recipient, cash/checks are more appreciated. Not only do they not have expiration dates as many of the gift card do, they're useful anywhere from Craigslist purchases to anywhere you'd get a gift card for. With the gift cards we've recieved we end up not having them with us when we go to the store they're to, with regular money gifts it's as easy as having it in your account gaining interest until you need it.

ispf said...

Broke grad: Very funny.... I enjoyed your post and I think I see a BIG hint there :)

limeade: I don't believe I left Target out of that list!!! It certainly in in my top 5!

anonymous: Maybe it is just psychological, but I cringe at the thought of giving/receiving cash :( It feels very raw and uncool... I really can't explain why. I guess that is one more reason why I like gift cards so much - almost similar benefits as giving cash, but a little more cool....

FinanceIsPersonal.com said...

The Visa Gift Card is the only one of those worth getting. This way at least the person you're giving it to has a choice where they spend the money!

Anonymous said...

I received a gas gift card last year, and it initially lead me to be... I dunno... perplexed? However, when I had to fill the tank later that week, I was very grateful, indeed! As long as the recipient has a car, you have some pretty solid insurance that they will USE your gift, that's for sure.

Money Blue Book said...

Gift cards are nice lazy gifts to give, but the required purchase fees are a major drag on their utility. It's like paying money to buy money.

Anonymous said...

I would love to get the Amazon card, as there are always books I want to buy. I would actually also like the grocery gift card. Since I'm on a strict budget, it would allow me to spurlge on foods I normally can't afford like maybe steak, or fresh strawberries, etc.

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