12:00 AM, 07 07, 2016

What’s the difference - Gift Cards, Gift Vouchers and eCodes – The Basic Gift Code Guide Pt 1

Gift Cards are changing. From cards and apps to vouchers and codes, buying a gift card can seem complicated! With mobile apps and smartphones and 24/7 access to emails, technology drives the gift card sector, so we wanted to start from the top with an overview that explains just what the differences are between gift vouchers, gift codes and gift cards.

Gift Vouchers / Gift Certificates

Whilst many businesses do choose to offer gift vouchers, they tend to be labour heavy compared to new gift cards and eCodes. Gift Vouchers are typically sent or purchased in paper formats and have an authorised signature from the business issuing them, and no electronic checks in place.  If ordered online, personalisation may also be available. To make the presentation more special they may be issued in a gift wallet – typically this is a thick card envelope with a differentiating graphic design (e.g. ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Just to say thanks’)

Gift Cards

Nowadays a gift card is more than likely to look like a credit card. Typically made from plastic, they will have their own number or unique identifier, but they aren’t usually personalised to a person’s name like a gift voucher might have been. You can buy Gift Cards in a retail store, online at a retailer’s website, or through a 3rd party such as SVM Global (ideal if you want to purchase in bulk as a sales incentive or as an employee reward). Supermarkets are also now offering wide varieties of gift cards at POS.

Branded Gift Cards

As well as the big retailers who sell Gift cards for their own wares, there are many businesses that choose to offer their own staff rewards or loyalty cards in the form of personalised, branded gift cards. These will typically be printed with an employees name on, as well as a unique identifier. This makes rewarding and incentivising much more personal and these are usually very successful for businesses who want to reward on an ongoing basis.

‘Top Up’ or Reloadable Gift cards

Some gift cards have the ability to be topped up in store or online with the retailer. This is ideal for retailers who offer the card, as it keeps footfall high. It is also great for businesses that have gifted out a gift card, as the memory of the event lives on!


eCodes are simply gift cards that can be delivered to mobiles phones via SMS messages, email addresses or through specific apps. These are incredibly popular with ‘Gen Z’ and millennial demographic groups who are keen to access goods on the move and at speed. The proliferation of free Wi-Fi and better mobile data/ roaming has enhanced this. 

Sometimes called virtual gift cards, eCodes are most commonly delivered via e-mail to a recipient, often with a personalised and branded message. This again can be open loop or closed loop - some retailers will offer the ability to gift eCodes for use at their shop or website, however, there are also employee reward platforms that allow the delivery of eCodes for an open loop use that can be spent at a choice of multiple retailers. These eCodes are typically 16 digit numbers or a PIN code that are entered at checkout or on a specific web page, and are exchanged for goods in the same way a credit card would be used.

We hope this brief guide has helped you decipher what type of gift cards are on offer! If you’re interested purchasing gift cards, eCodes or gift vouchers – speak to us! We specialise in bulk gift card orders for 100’s of retailers and discounts are available for large order volumes. Email hello@svmglobal.comor click here to view our portfolio. 

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