14 unexpected gift card ideas

Go above and beyond with these original gift cards

Sure, the gift card was once considered the go-to present for the lazy, last minute shopper, but now, it’s not exactly an impersonal pick. In fact, we think it’s making a comeback, especially with some of the best gift cards that are a bit more unique than the usual certificate to a favorite chain retailer.

They are still ridiculously easy to purchase, but now they’re more personal than ever with all of the options available for every personality and taste—gift your cinephile friend a Fandango gift card so he can watch any Oscar-worthy films, or your sister who’s a foodie a certificate to Mouth.com, so she can enjoy the best of American-made indie food products. Plus, on the even brighter side, they won’t take up too much space in your suitcase so you don’t have to worry about packing away gifts this holiday travel season.

Now, before you stuff that card in a big old envelope, consider using our creative packaging tips to make it feel extra special. For example, for a gift card to the home furnishings site, One Kings Lane, place the it in a pretty teacup, or slot in an airline certificate inside a luggage tag to send your friend off on a great trip.

Etsy.com

When you’re looking for something handmade, personal, or truly one-of-a-kind, etsy.com is the marketplace to scour. Finding that perfect present can be challenging when faced with so many creative and customizable options. Until now. This card will allow gift recipients to purchase at any shop that accepts the gift card.

To buy: etsy.com.

Packaging tips: Make it truly personal: Package with an initial ornament or maybe a homemade batch of the recipient’s favorite treat.

Birchbox

Each month your friend will get a sampling of five beauty products for skin, hair, and style. Each box is tailored to her own style and preferences, so it’s truly a personalized gift. Whether she’s a beauty junkie or someone who prefers a no-fuss makeup routine, she’ll love trying out new and bestselling products to find her next go-tos. With the gift card, your friend can decide when to start the subscription service.

To buy: starts at $30 for a 3-month subscription, birchbox.com

Packaging tips: Place it in a makeup pouch so she can stash each month’s offerings inside it.

Teavana

There’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a soothing cup of tea in the morning or at the end of the day. If your relative or friend thinks she’s a bit of a tea connoisseur, she’ll enjoy choosing teas from Teavana’s varied inventory (from an assortment of green tea flavors to blends made specifically for iced tea). The gift card can be used to purchase teas, teaware, or subscriptions.

To buy: starts at $15, teavana.com

Packaging tips: Pair the gift card with a teapot that a built-in infuser so the tea-making process is an easy task.

The Art of Shaving

Help him up his grooming routine with a gift card from The Art of Shaving. The online store let customers build their own shaving kit, or purchase items like soap, razors, and brushes separately. He can also fill out a questionnaire on the site to get personalized advice and product picks. And if he likes any of the products, he can sign up to get the shaving essentials sent to him every time he runs out.

To buy: starts at $25, theartofshaving.com.

Packaging tips: Pair it with a sleek toiletry bag or dopp kit—chances are he doesn’t have one (or it’s worn out).

Stub Hub

From sporting events to rock concerts, this gift card will have him scoring seats to the band or baseball game that he already has marked on his calendar.

To buy: Starting at $25, stubhub.com.

Packaging tips: Play up the fun factor and wrap the card with earphones or an old-school wristband.

One Kings Lane

She scours flea markets; she lives for the auction scene. From unique decorative pieces to kitchen essentials, this site offers a plethora of options for the person who has a knack for blending the eclectic with the everyday.

To buy: Starting at $25, onekingslane.com.

Packaging tip: Present your card in a vintage teacup or another one–of–a–kind find.

Fandango

When you’ve just about had it with the I’ll wait for it to come out on Netflix response, this is all your co-worker or cousin needs to hit Saturday’s matinee.

To buy: Starting at $10, fandango.com.

Packaging tips: Fill a festive container (striped paper favor boxes, shopsweetlulu.com) with classic movie munchies.

Wine.com

When you can't recall if it was Chardonnay or Cabernet that she prefers, this is the smart gift–giving solution. Meant for the holiday hostess who enjoys handpicking and ordering her bottle after the company has gone home.

To buy: Starting at $25, wine.com.

Packaging tips: Bundle the card with a set of cute coasters.

Ebay

Bidding wars? Bring ’em. From his last car (really!) to her Chanel bag, this card gives that special person permission to be a little competitive.

To buy: Starting at $25, giftcard.ebay.com.

Packaging tips: It seems only right to bid—and win—an item for this lucky recipient.

DonorsChoose.org

Never underestimate the power of the gift that gives back. A card to donorschoose.org lets your recipient be instrumental in helping the lives of students across the country. And making a difference can happen in a few ways like purchasing classroom supplies (pencils, reference books, lab materials) or browsing and choosing a specific project they’re most inspired by.

To donate: donorschoose.org.

Packaging tips: This much love only requires a simple festive ribbon.

Hotels.com

For the world traveler (or someone in desperate need of a vacation), this card will come in handy. It doesn’t matter the destination or budget, anyone can book a hotel in cities from around the world, from a five-star resort to a two-star inn.

To buy: From $10 to $2,000, hotels.com

Packaging tip: Wrap the card using a map or map-inspired wrapping paper.

Mouth

If your friend loves trying out the latest food trends, he’ll love shopping at Mouth, which sells unique, American-made indie food products. He can also try out monthly subscription boxes like popcorn or bacon of the month.

To buy: starts at $25, mouth.com

Packaging tip: Attach to a serving tray or cheese board.

Jet Blue

For the sister dreaming of a beach vacation or the BFF hundreds of miles away dying to come for a visit, give them extra incentive for booking that flight.

To buy: Unfortunately, this item is no longer available, but please see united.com for similar gift cards.

Packaging tips: Need an idea on the fly? Pop the card in a stylish luggage tag (striped luggage tag, henribendel.com).

Whole Foods

You can’t beat the fruit basket, but certain people like picking their own peaches and pears. For the shopper with an all-natural mentality, this idea is worth almost as much as money to spend at her favorite farmer’s market.

To buy: Starting at $20, wholefoodsmarket.com.

Packaging tips: A reusable bag, of course!

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