/ Money, Shopping

Giving a gift voucher – cop-out or considerate?

Unfortunately it’s become a bit of a high street trend for shops to go bust, often refusing to honour customers’ gift vouchers along the way. With a lack of rights surrounding them, are gift vouchers still a worthy gift?

There’s something about the slim white envelope being passed over to you. You just know, don’t you? There’s going to be a gift voucher inside.

We all do it. My Dad does it for my Mum for her favourite clothes store to avoid the ultimate clothes choice mishap. And I do it for my bookworm friends when I don’t want to second guess their reading choice – it’s the safe bet.

But with an increasing amount of administrators refusing to accept vouchers when shops go into administration, this image of the safe present choice may be misguided. Do you still give them?

Giving gift vouchers

According to our new survey, you do – in fact, eight out of 10 people surveyed have used a gift voucher in the last two years. Of those that have used a gift voucher, half used it because someone had bought it for them.

So why do we give them? Of those that had given a voucher as a present, more than half of you told us the reason was because you knew the recipient would like it, and nearly four in 10 said it was a preferable alternative to giving cash.

When we asked you here on Conversation about your thoughts on vouchers back in 2010, many of you professed to being a fan of the humble voucher – GL Attaway called them ‘an ideal gift for the ‘one who has everything’, while Cathi claimed:

‘I love receiving gift vouchers – especially online stores that sell everything! I can choose to spend as and when on what I like.’

Have gift vouchers stopped giving?

But this gush for gift vouchers has changed direction. In our most recent post, William said:

‘I think gift vouchers were traditionally a very good way of giving a present to someone who needed some money towards a particular item, or were tricky to buy for. Now, given today’s turbulent economy, they have become a risk.’

In our survey, more than half of you told us you would be less likely to buy gift vouchers at all now, because of the recent problems affecting some high street shops.

Unfortunately, it is within the law for administrators to refuse to honour your gift vouchers – even though the shop has already accepted money for them. You can make a claim in writing to the administrators with proof of your vouchers. But there’s no guarantee you’ll get all of your money back, and it could take up to 12 months to process the claim properly.

So, have gift vouchers had their day? And do you still enjoy receiving them – or would you really just prefer cash, or a more thoughtful token gift?


I used to give gift vouchers to my nephews, nieces and friends’ children but after losing nearly £200 on vouchers myself I no longer buy vouchers. I give cash, or cheques to those who have a bank account.

My local Tesco now has an end-of-aisle display of an amazing variety of gift cards and I wonder how many of them will become worthless pieces of plastic.

I realise that my comments are off-topic. The reason that I used to give vouchers and now give money is because I have hated receiving gifts I don’t want since I was a child.

These tokens – often for “experience days” (actually often only an hour or two) – proliferated a few years ago and always look poor value for money, don’t they?
I was given a Flying Experience voucher for as birthday – 2 hours with 45 mins flying in a single engine plane – £299! My family are pretty shrewd however and bought it through KGB Deals online – £99 – great value. Some of these experiences are a great way of trying something you may never do otherwise – a few years ago I drove a Great Western Railway King Class steam locomotive as a gift.
Worth shopping on line though to find discounted prices to get decent value.

That’s a useful reminder that I was given a voucher for a gastro pub dining experience for two, as a Christmas present. I need to redeem the voucher before it or the company expires.

Since more high-street retailers have gone bust, I’m wary of gift vouchers. However I do still buy them, particularly for books. Now that a lot of people I know have got e-readers, I know they won’t appreciate me sending them physical copies of books, so I usually buy a voucher and then send them a list of book recommendations. But those are usually for companies that I’m confident won’t go out of business any time soon i.e. Amazon.

I actually quite like the idea of gift vouchers, because it makes you spend them on something that’s nice. If I get, say, a boots token I’ll treat myself to something I wouldn’t otherwise buy. If I get cash, I’m more likely to just put it in my bank account and it’ll end up going towards bills, which isn’t very exciting. My grandparents usually give cash, but when they do they’ll suggest something and say ‘spend it on what you like, but we thought this could go towards that new coat that you’ve been after’ or something, that way I’m more likely to treat myself rather than spend it on boring bills!

We try to choose presents a family would like, either through birthday lists, intelligence from other members, or just inspiration. Much more fun (for both parties) when there is the surprise of opening a parcel with something welcome inside. It is hard work but enjoyable.
However there are times when it is sensible to let the person choose, and we have given cash or cheques dressed up in a custom card. Sometimes but rarely gift vouchers if they want a contribution for a particular shop. Generally a major retailer such as John Lewis.
I have had National Garden Gift Vouchers and Book Tokens from people who don’t know what to buy, and these are welcome (and presumably safe from business failure?). I’d stick with generic tokens for safety (hopefully) rather than business-specific ones.

If I use a credit card to buy gift vouchers [over £100 in value of course] and the voucher accepter fails making the vouchers useless, does S.75 of the Consumer Credit Act give me any protection?

Snork says:
30 June 2014

Hate ’em. Got one for a bookstore, only they moved their store so the nearest one was far away. Expired before I got there. Got another for a local store, but we went there and everything was overpriced and nothing grabbed us. We’d have to pay extra $$$ to round up the value anyway or still leave something on the card.

Waste. Retailer kept the givers money from the first one, and still the givers money for the second one.

I can see why shops love them. I wonder what percentage of money spent on gift cards they never have to pay out.

So please stop. If you’re a gift card giver you might as well burn your money.

Primrose says:
25 July 2014

I so agree. My children very kindly give me vouchers because they live some distance from me. However I frequently forget them and by the time I remember they have expired. For experience days an extension costs £20. Stores go in to liquidation or move elsewhere. Experience days cost a fortune for me to reach the venue on the train or are very difficult to get to and very little of the experiences are suitable for someone of my age. I also hate them.