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I'd really like to be able to offer branded "stored-value" gift cards (think "Home Depot" or "Best Buy") but as far as I can tell, those are available for in-person transactions only -- you have to swipe the magnetic stripe in order to use them.
Prepaid Visa cards are another idea, but typically can't be restricted to use only on my web site.
I looked briefly into PayPals "Gift Certificate" offering but decided it was a waste of time for several reasons -- first, they keep the money and release it to you as the gift certificate is redeemed, and of course, the user has to have a PayPal account in order to redeem. So that's not going to work.
So instead, I'm thinking of having some plastic "gift cards" printed up with my logo and a unique serial number on each. I record the serial number and gift certificate amount and can track the redemption later on - the user enters the serial number during checkout and I know how much credit they have. I use a home-grown cart system so I can easily modify it.
Wondering what methods you use for handling gift certificates on your e-commerce sites?
For email certificates, we don't do anything special. For printed, we have a Gift Certificate template that we enter the recipient information, the certificate amount, and the codes they need in order to use it online.
I looked briefly at getting cards printed it, but it was going to be far more hassle than it was worth.