Giftly Makes Gift Cards More Personal

October 27, 2012

10:00 am

From 2005 to 2011, an estimated $41 billion in gift card money was wasted, unused.

Expiration dates are part of the reason why gift cards aren’t the merriest of presents. The other, of course, is that they don’t show much thought or care. Giftly, a San Francisco startup, wants to fix all these problems and more.

Personal. Giftly givers can pick an item to give, not just a store: for example, a beer at the local tavern, or a cupcake from Sprinkles. People have also given their friends hotel stays, and even a tire change.

Founder Tim Bentley, who used to work at Aardvark (acquired by Google), came up with Giftly around his mother’s birthday. He called her favorite restaurant to request a gift card, but they wouldn’t let him buy it over the phone.

“Gifting is something that hits home with a lot of people. It’s a fundamental part of human relationships,” says Bentley.

Unexpirable. Giftly gift cards never expire. That’s possible because, unlike Treater, they don’t deal with merchants at all. Recipients just purchase the gifted item with their own money and check in at the location on the Giftly app; then, their credit card gets credited with the amount.

Flexible. Gift cards are inflexible, so you’re stuck shopping at a store you hate if your friends don’t know your preferences. But on Giftly, you can give generic gifts, like dinner at a Mexican restaurant or just dinner. And if your friend still isn’t in the mood for burritos, they can eat elsewhere as a last resort.

Giftly has a few minor inconveniences. You have to input your credit card to get the gifted money. Giftly charges the giver a small fee per gift, around $5 for a $100 gift, to pay for credit card fees. And, obviously, you have to download the Giftly app.

But if it’s the thought that counts – or the billions of dollars of waste – it’s probably worth it.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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