It’s not yet Christmas. I know. But I’ll be celebrating my birthday in three days, and I expect gifts. Kidding (and aging).
You’ve always known that I am an online seller and digital content writer, but maybe not that I occasionally receive perks and tokens from OMSMPC and the brands I work with.
These are mostly Lazada and Grab e-vouchers, Sodexo e-gift certificates, and recently upon winning the BDO Buddy of the Year, SM Gift Passes worth PHPXX,000 (plus PHP1,000 for attending the awards night). Not bad for side hustles, right?
I still can’t get over winning the most significant award that night. It was just unexpected. For the nth time, I congratulate all content creators, bloggers and vloggers alike, especially those who won big in the BDO Buddies Awards 2023. Congratulations!
It was also the first time I received gift certificates worth that big. I couldn’t help but get curious about the gift certificate and gift card economy. As usual, I did some digging and got inspired to write and share about it.
I am used to redeeming e-gifts via mobile apps, but not the physical and paper gift certificates that much. I still remember the first gift check I ever had, and it was a PHP200-worth of Mang Inasal meal package, which my aunt paid me for running her bank errands. The last was the PHP2,000 UNIQLO gift card or the PHP500 Puregold gift certificate more than a year ago.
Gift Certificates, Gift Cards, and e-Gifts
Gifting, which precedes Christmas and even predates civilization and pagan rituals, has evolved through thousands of years.
Interestingly, gift certificates were introduced to consumers by department stores in the 1930s and served as the predecessor of the more modern gift cards. In the 1970s, these gained popularity when McDonald’s rolled out campaigns with Christmas gift certificates. Soon, many merchants jumped on the bandwagon.
Gift certificates or gift checks are pieces of paper or thicker cardstocks that you buy at a store, give to someone, and entitle that person to exchange them for goods worth the same amount.
However, redeeming gift certificates and associated fraudulent schemes became problematic that in the 1990s, business establishments started issuing gift cards instead. In the early 2000s, Starbucks became the first to launch reloadable gift cards.
Gift cards, unlike gift certificates, are printed on thin plastic materials and can have a limited face value or a reloadable feature. These cards generally have barcodes or magnetic stripes to transfer information into the POS system. They are more durable, efficient, and fraud-free than traditional gift certificates.
Soon, e-gift cards gained traction. As for Justin Calderon on Reloadly Blog, e-gift card adoption is driven by diverse choices, the ubiquity of mobile devices to make real-time transfers, its use as an alternative mode of payment, and overall fungibility.
With these digital gift cards, more people can share them across borders and spend them from anywhere, as long as they are connected to the internet. The adoption was also largely instigated by stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
E-gift cards, the most recent versions and known by other names such as digital gift cards, mobile gift cards, virtual gift cards, e-vouchers, and e-codes, are electronic gift cards that work almost the same as physical gift cards but take the plastic element away.
These e-cards carry serial numbers, bar codes, QR codes, and other security features that can be shared online, shown to the merchants at their physical stores, and used as payments for products and services.
According to Research and Markets, the gift card industry in the Philippines is expected to grow by 14.4% annually. It has recorded steady growth with a CAGR of 12.0% during 2017-2021.
Moreover, this growth momentum is expected to grow over the forecast period, recording a CAGR of 12.1% from 2022-2026. The gift card market in the country will increase from $529.5 million in 2021 to $954.5 million by 2026.
Gift Check Act of 2017 — and What Filipino Givers and Receivers Should Know About the No-Expiration Policy
Former President Rodrigo Duterte, on December 19, 2017, signed into law Republic Act No. 10962, otherwise known as the “Gift Check Act of 2017.”
One salient feature of the act, i.e., Section 5, is that it prohibits business establishments from issuing gift checks that bear expiry dates and the imposition of expiry dates on the stored values, credits, or balances of gift checks.
In simplest terms, a gift check, once purchased, should be valid in perpetuity (or, more realistically, until the value is used up).
However, this Gift Check Act does not cover gift vouchers and gift checks issued under a loyalty, rewards, or promotional program as determined by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
12 Best Gift Certificates and Gift Cards (Physical and Digital) in the Philippines Today
If you’re planning to gift your loved one with a gift certificate or gift card, either physical or digital, you have many more options than you know.
Business establishments these days, big and small, venture into offering gift certificates and cards as they invest in brand awareness and engagement that promise sales and profit increase. But of course, the competition is stiff, and some stand out.
These are the top 12 gift certificates and gift cards (physical and digital) in the Philippines today:
 Sodexo Premium Pass (People of All Ages). Sodexo has since been a household name and remains the leader in gifting and rewards in the Philippines. It offers a range of products designed to fit the diverse needs of Filipino consumers — the Sodexo Premium Pass with the broadest merchant network accepted in over 10,000 merchant outlets across the country, co-branded gift certificates, and innovative digital solutions such as the Sodexo Mobile Pass and Sodexo+.
 SM Gift Pass (Shoppers and Mallgoers). It is the official non-expiring gift certificate of SM Supermalls, the Philippines’ largest chain of malls. The paper gift certificates and e-gifts can be exchanged or used as a form of payment for products and services in over 65 SM malls and other affiliate brands such as UNIQLO, Toy Kingdom, and Watsons. It may also be converted to digital cash credits via Sodexo+ mobile app.
 Robinsons Gift Certificates (Shoppers and Mallgoers). Also in both paper and electronic gift certificates, these can be used in Robinsons Retail, one of the country’s biggest multi-format retailers with a diverse brand portfolio of over 2,000 stores nationwide, consisting of market-leading banners such as Robinsons Supermarket, Shopwise, Robinsons, Handyman, Uncle Johns (Ministop), Daiso Japan, and even in some partner hotels in the country.
 Starbucks eGift (Young People and Coffee Lovers). It is a digital gift certificate with PHP300, PHP500, PHP1,000, and PHP2,000 denominations. It is now available through GLife on GCash and can be sent to family and friends who want to enjoy an affordable luxury from the coveted coffeehouse brand.
 Lazada Gift Cards (Online Shoppers). Lazada is no doubt one if not the biggest e-commerce platform in the country today, while the online shopping spree is just around the digital space, especially during mega sales. Lazada Gift Card is its newest digital product containing a specific amount of money users can cash into their Lazada Wallet. Users can redeem gift cards by entering the code in the Gift Card redemption page found in the Lazada Wallet to be used as wallet credits or sent as gifts.
 GrabGifts (Foodies and Active Grab App Users). These are one-stop electronic vouchers for transport, food, mart, or express on Grab. As we all know, Grab has maintained its stronghold in the ride-hailing and food delivery business in the ASEAN region, with over 90% relative market share in the Philippines. Its services are available in major cities in the country.
 Puregold Gift Certificates (Grocery Shoppers). Both in traditional paper and digital versions, Puregold gift certificates can be used for grocery shopping and even bills payments at over 400 multi-format stores of the Philippines’ largest chain of ubiquitous supermarkets engaged in trading consumer goods on a wholesale and retail basis.
 Jolly e-Gifts (Kids and Kids at Heart). Jollibee’s Jolly e-Gifts provides customers a convenient online service for purchasing and sending Jollibee e-vouchers and e-gift certificates to family and friends. Jollibee is a homegrown fast-food giant with over a thousand branches nationwide and is considered a stronghold of heritage and a monument of Filipino victory.
 Zalora Gift Cards (Fashion Enthusiasts). It is the leading name in online shopping for fashion, carrying an ever-expanding line-up of top local and international brands tailored for consumers in the Philippines. Its selection of over 120,000 products covers every aspect of fashion, from shirts to dresses, sneakers to slip-ons, sportswear to watches, and so much more.
 Apple Store Gift Cards (Tech People). Perfect as gifts for tech friends and family members who love Apple products and who just need an upgrade on their personal gadgets, Apple Store Gift Cards come in stored values between PHP1,000 to PHP30,0000, can be purchased from the Apple Online Store, and can be used online to buy any of the tech giant’s high-end gadgets and accessories.
 The Bistro Group Gift Cards (Foodie Adults). The Bistro Group is comprised of international casual dining brands and homegrown concepts. Its gift cards can be used for various dining concepts and the corresponding branches of TGI Fridays, Italianni’s, Fish & Co., Bulgogi Brothers, Modern Shanghai, Watamai, Buffalo Wild Wings, Texas Roadhouse, Denny’s, Baker & Cook, and Village Tavern.
 Rustan’s Gift Certificates and eGift Cards (Shoppers and Mallgoers). Rustan’s gift certificates are physical gift checks that can be purchased at any Rustan’s Department Store, while online gift cards are electronic versions available on their website. Rustan’s is the Philippines’ leading upscale and luxury retail destination, known for its unparalleled range of prestigious brands and quality merchandise.
9 Advantages of Gift Certificates and Gift Cards as Instant Gift and Giveaway Alternatives
Good gifts come with two essential aspects — personality and the element of surprise. Gifts should reveal our deep knowledge about the personalities, values, and preferences of the people we love and appreciate. Equally, these should lead to somewhat magical emotions and experiences as they receive and unwrap them.
While we run busy lives and thus, it’s nearly impossible for us to dedicate time and effort to make gifting the most personalized and surprising ever, there are just good alternatives, and these may include sending gift certificates and gift cards that offer these advantages
 Gift certificates and cards are incredibly convenient. You need not bother going through sales and hunting for the best items that fit the personalities and tastes of the receivers. Drop by the department stores’ or even supermarkets’ customer service sections and buy these gift certificates. Or, you buy them online with a few taps and send them instantly via your smartphone.
 They’re also getting practical these days. They take that guesswork out of choosing the best possible gifts and letting the recipients choose what they want from their favorite stores. In other words, these gift certificates and gift cards are practical and flexible. With SM Gift Passes, for example, recipients may use them to make purchases at SM department stores, buy beauty and personal products at Watsons, or pay for grocery shopping.
 They work on all occasions. Gift certificates and cards are perfect for any occasion, whether a birthday, anniversary, graduation, Mothers’ Day, or even Valentine’s Day and Christmas. E-gift cards are sometimes customizable or come with creative templates readily available on the apps. You may add special dedications and messages before sending them online.
 They are also perfect for tokens and game prizes. Aside from being ideal gift alternatives, gift certificates and cards are perfect tokens and giveaways during special events. In company training and team building activities, they can also be game and raffle prizes. They are portable, and there is no need to struggle to transport boxes of appliances and other bulky items.
 They’re more special and more socially appropriate than cash. In the Filipino gift-giving tradition, cash gifts are perhaps the most practical. Although not necessarily rude, they are sometimes inappropriate. Imagine at a Christmas party exchange gifts where there is a set value for all gifts to give and receive, and the one who picked you just hand over an envelope with the actual cash value. That may be funny, but disappointing.
 They don’t expire anymore. You might have just learned about the Gift Check Act of 2017 and that gift certificates and checks these days no longer bear expiration dates. That means receivers can keep them for a long time or until what to do and what to buy with them are wisely decided.
So, gift certificates and cards received on Christmas may still be used months after for shopping needs and other purposes. Although not the wisest idea, these may even be used for re-gifting. Just make sure not to get caught.
 There are now more ways of redeeming them. You might have thought that physical gift certificates and cards can only be used at physical stores, while e-gifts can be online. Wait until you Google it.
For example, SM Gift and Sodexo Premium Passes can also be converted to digital cash credits and used to purchase online. Many partner merchants also allow redemptions of digital codes and e-vouchers, even at physical stores. You just show them the serial numbers for verifications or the QR codes for scanning.
 They may also be converted to cash. Although you cannot just surrender them and claim cash values, you can always find buyers of the gift certificates. Consider selling some to your friends and coworkers at a little discount if you have many. You might have also seen social media ads for buying and selling gift certificates, mostly Sodexo and SM Gift Passes.
 They’re just creative and innovative. It always amazes to try new things and new ways, particularly with technologies and innovations. Sending e-gift cards is just clever and innovative and thus comes with an extra element of surprise.
In a country that celebrates the most extended Christmas in the world, gift giving and exchanging gifts have since been Filipino gestures of gratitude, affection, and celebration.
Gift cards and gift certificates have been around for decades, offering alternatives to cash gifts and wrapped items with convenience, practicality, and social appropriateness.
Going forward, e-gift cards have also recently gained popularity, primarily propelled by the booming e-commerce and the ubiquity of mobile phones. There is just no reason not to try them.
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