What Are Gift Cards, And How Do You Acquire Them?

If you have ever tried to earn money online, you'll know that many platforms offer to pay in gift cards instead of money. Many users shy away from such payment methods as, in their eyes, the only value lies in money. That's a mistake, as gift cards have become a currency of the internet. 

But as with all things related to our digital spaces, there are some scams and pitfalls you should avoid. Understanding what gift cards are and how to legitimately acquire them will open up many online earning opportunities. This article is an introduction to online gift cards.

The benefits of gift cards

Gift cards are a type of prepaid card holding a fixed amount of money for making full or partial purchases and, in some cases, other financial transactions.

At first, gift cards were created as a way to promote physical stores or compensate customers for inconveniences. Now, the concept has grown, so we have two main types.

What we traditionally associate with an online gift card is a closed-loop gift card. They can be used only at a single merchant's store (online or offline). Another defining feature is that they aren't reloadable and have an expiration date.

Open-loop gift cards are the equivalent of a credit or debit card. They function as a card issued by a bank or credit card provider with a specific amount already prepaid. Open-loop cards can be reloaded and do not have any expiration dates.

It's important to understand this distinction as many gift card scams rely on confusing the victim about their differences. The object of this article is closed-loop gift cards. If they come from a legitimate provider, they are a much safer means of online income.

For example, a Lyft digital gift card will get me credits on a platform that I use almost daily. Even if this card has an expiration date or a limited amount of cash, I can benefit from traveling from point A to point B without spending any of my money. But gift cards are beneficial for everyone.

Issuing such gift cards as compensation or promotion is beneficial for companies as they can ensure that at least part of the money will return. They also sell such gift cards as a means of profiting from their goods and services before actually providing them.

More broadly, consumers benefit from trading gift cards as they can function as an alternative to currency. Real money is already spent when purchasing gift cards for the first time, so all taxes are already paid. However, this also means that gift cards are difficult to trace and used by scammers.

Why some gift card promotions are fake?

Perhaps the best-known cases are of hackers who attack personal or business networks and ask for cryptocurrencies or gift cards as compensation. However, such scams can also involve phishing attacks via email or even phone calls,

Less-known cases are of fake gift card promotions, where scammers pretend to be representatives of certain companies and promise free gift cards.

Then, they provide fake or expired gift cards, collecting the victim's personal information in exchange. In some cases, such scams even trick people into paying money for fake gift cards.

There are many more ways gift cards are involved in various fraudulent activities. The point here is that it doesn't give much credibility for gift cards as a legitimate means of earning money. But, acquiring legitimate gift cards for simple tasks online is entirely possible and will save you a ton of money in taxes. 

Three legitimate ways to get gift cards for free

There are three main rules to follow for avoiding scams and finding legitimate platforms to earn gift cards.

  • Never pay to participate
  • Don't give too much of your personal information
  • Avoid platforms that promise too much

Following these three tips is essential for avoiding most of the scams. What's even better is understanding what types of activities can get you free gift cards. I have three suggestions below.

Bandwidth sharing

With advances in internet infrastructure, most of us have more bandwidth than we actually need. At the same time, many individuals, companies, and research institutions are constantly looking for ways to diversify how you can connect to the internet. 

Bandwidth-sharing platforms connect these two groups of people, allowing those who need internet access from your region to acquire it. Obviously, you get compensated for using platforms such as Pawns or EarnApp.

To help users minimize the tax burden, bandwidth-sharing platforms pay in gift cards. The best part is that you are getting them for doing almost nothing, you only need to activate the software.

Online surveys

We all have plenty of unique takes on politics, social issues, consumer goods, and other matters. You might not know it, but your opinions are actually valuable to organizations working to improve their products and services. They collect opinions through paid survey platforms.

Survey Junkey, Pawns, Toluna, YouGov, and many others pay participants gift cards to complete surveys. It's not that difficult to find 30 minutes each day for a survey and cover some of your expenses with a gift card.

Cashback platforms

Cashback platforms allow users to earn back money they spend in various rewards, discounts, points, or gift cards. Unlike surveys or bandwidth sharing, this is closer to a method of saving than of earning. Still, cashback platforms are an easy and legitimate way to acquire gift cards.

The biggest drawback is that platforms like Rakuten, Honey, or Ibotta support only some regions and stores. But once you find a platform with your favorite stores, it's a gift card gold mine.


Closed-loop gift cards are beneficial for both consumers and companies mainly because they save taxes and guarantee the flow of money.

Unfortunately, they are often used for various scams, so to avoid them, look for legitimate methods. In my experience, bandwidth sharing, online surveys, and cashback are the most effective.