Buying gifts can be difficult and we don’t always get it right. Gift cards let you give someone money to spend at a chosen shop, allowing them to choose the ideal present. As a result, gift cards are a popular present at Christmas time.
Why store gift cards on your smartphone?
The main reason to store gift cards on your smartphone is for the convenience. I don’t know about you, but my wallet is already chunky enough without adding more plastic cards. Having the gift cards stored on your smartphone takes up no physical space unless you count the smartphone, but even those are getting pretty thin nowadays. Besides, carrying around a smartphone is something we’ve already accepted and are used to.
The problem with gift cards is that the credit can only be used at a particular shop, which reduces the number of opportunities to spend them. Some people like to collect all their gift cards after Christmas and go on a dedicated shopping trip to spend them because they won’t get spent otherwise. Other people prefer to spend gift cards on an as-needed basis. For example, you need to buy a new pair of shoes in January so you use the gift card to pay for them. The issue is that many people, myself included, might forget to bring the gift card, or worse still, they might have forgotten about the gift card. The advantage of storing gift cards on your smartphone is that you can never forget to bring them.
The common type of gift card: magnetic stripe
Most gift cards take the form of a magnetic stripe card, which is rather unfortunate because the vast majority of smartphones are unable to mimic a magnetic stripe. Some of the newer Samsung smartphone feature MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) which allows them to mimic magnetic stripe cards, although Samsung Pay only seems to support MST for Debit / Credit cards at the moment.
For now, the only option is to use the long number printed on the card, usually below the magnetic stripe. Presenting a long number in the shop isn’t elegant, and the cashier might not appreciate typing it in, but it’s a whole lot better than forgetting to bring the gift card.
The less common type: barcode
Not many gift cards use barcodes, but some do. If you come across one of these, they are much easier to store on your smartphone. Simply scan the barcode with the camera, and the app on your smartphone will retain a copy. When it comes time to use the gift card, you can simply launch the app and scan your smartphone screen with the barcode reader.
The downside of this is that some barcode readers can’t scan smartphone screens, particularly if you are using a screen protector. In this scenario, you will have to go old-school and let the cashier type in the barcode number. The upside is that barcode numbers are usually pretty short compared to the number of a magnetic stripe.
Android smartphones: Android Pay
Using an Android smartphone, there are many apps available, but my favourite solution is Android Pay. I’m already using Android Pay for contactless payments, so using it for gift cards makes sense. After installing the app, tap the + button and tap ‘add a gift card’. Choose a retailer, enter the card details (scan the barcode if possible) and hit ‘save’. You can access all your gift cards alongside your payments cards from the main screen of the app. Gyft and Stocard are also available for Android, I cover these in the section below.
iPhones: Gyft and Stocard
I don’t personally use an iPhone, but as I understand it, the Apple Wallet app doesn’t allow you to add physical gift cards. Luckily though, there are a number of 3rd party apps in the App Store which can help out. The Gyft app for iOS claims to let you ‘upload your plastic gift cards” and “manage them straight from your phone”. Another option for storing gift cards is Stocard. The app is geared towards loyalty cards, but it works just fine with gift cards too. It will even convert the magnetic stripe number into a barcode, which in some cases will work, but the number will always be shown as a backup.
Gyft - Source: itunes.apple.com
Stocard - Source: itunes.apple.com
While storing gift cards on your smartphone isn’t a fool-proof solution, it’s certainly a very good one. If you are going to the shop with the intention of using a gift card, there is no harm in bringing the plastic card, but having them stored on your smartphone is a good backup solution - in case you forget or lose the original gift card.
What is your opinion on storing gift cards on your smartphone? Will you be uploading the gift cards you receive?