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The best digital gift cards of 2011

Holiday shoppers love them. But some companies, like Apple and Office Depot, haven't jumped on the e-card bandwagon.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 20, 2011 12:58PM

This post comes from partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyThe Home Depot retained its title as the retailer with the best digital gift cards, according to an annual report from RSR Research.


Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma snagged second and third in the rankings, respectively, positions previously held by CVS and Amazon.


Digital gift cards, or e-cards, are purchased online and sent to recipients via email. The cards have become increasingly popular during the past few years by serving busy consumers who need to do some last-minute holiday shopping and may not have time to send an actual gift card.


RSR's report evaluates digital gift card offerings from the Internet Top 100 Retailers, using 22 criteria, including the comprehensiveness of the offering, the selection experience, the purchase experience and the recipient experience.


Amazon and Gap/L.L. Bean rounded out the report's list of the top five retailers cited as having the best digital gift cards.


RSR says the retailers taking the top spots generally list their offerings prominently on their websites, notify a buyer when the gift is delivered, and eliminate the need to enter any shipping information. Post continues after video.

The report says more retailers should offer the opportunity to personalize a gift or greeting, citing top-ranked Home Depot, which lets buyers record a video message for the gift card recipient. It also suggests offering e-cards through social networks, as Best Buy does, or through mobile apps, as REI, Lowe's, Victoria's Secret, Amazon and J.C. Penney do.


"Consumers will expect mobile digital gift card offerings, and retailers who offer personalized digital gift cards will continue to enjoy significant differentiation," says Nikki Baird, RSR Research analyst and co-author of the report.


RSR Research found, overall, that the number of retailers offering digital gift cards increased 47% during the past year, with 59 of the top 100 retailers offering them.


According to the report, Apple, Office Depot, Office Max and Sony are among the top 100 brands that still do not offer digital gift cards to their customers.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Nov 6, 2011 12:15PM

During Christmas 2010 I bought Blockbuster gift cards for friends. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy and the cards were not honored, so my friends got nothing !!!. With this bad economy, any company can do the same and your gift card will be just plastic. Better give cash and hugs Smile.

Nov 6, 2011 11:01AM
How can you tell when you've received a legitimate e-card?  My spam box is full of notifications that "Congratulations, your $500 (Target, Walmart, Bestbuy, etc. etc., ) card has arrived!!!!" I don't want to click on a phony card site, but wouldn't want to delete a legitimate one, either. Any ideas?
Nov 6, 2011 11:19AM
Check out the interest rate at BBuy first.  Have bucket ready for vomit.  Then try to contact them, or their parent company, there's another joke.  HATE BBuy!!!!!
Nov 6, 2011 1:19PM
Do not use these ppl!! I made the mistake of trying them last Christmas season, only to have nothing but headaches!! I had outright purchased and pd. for them immediately, with the understanding their would be no problem in redeeming them. Totally untrue!! I had purchased 4 of these digital gift cards thru Toys R Us. First off, my daughter did not recieve them for about 2 weeks, thru computer, which is ridiculous.You wouldn't believe how many times I had to email/call this company, just for her to get what I pd. for. Then, when she did, they were full of errors. Two gift cards were short $10.00 each. (the company finally got that straightened out, but it took them from Dec. to April to reimburse me for the shortage). In the midst of it all she was sent a couple gift e-cards that were "bogus," (more than likely thru a hacker). The legitimate ecards, were redeemed by the store, but only after the manager checked them for an hour and my daughter had to give all kinds of I.D., that it was outrageous. (not only that, but the store ppl were extremely rude to her family) Not to mention she had her two toddlers w/her, and the kids had to wait at least an hour to be able to pick out the toys they wanted. The store basically said they had not heard of these and really did not want to honor these cards! (even though they were fully paid for, actually over-paid for, due to their processing error on their part. I thought these would be a great convenience and had nothing but problems with them. I would suggest finding another gift route if your even considering them! Maybe some have had good experiences, not here! .....In a nutshell, use at your own risk!! I had to contact the company several times by email and phone, just to get it all straightened out, plus my refund for the missing ten dollars for ea. card! Not to mention, the lack of intelligence that I dealt with, unreal!!  
Nov 7, 2011 12:51AM

Best Buy is NOT a good company to buy electronic: too expensive and worst Return Policy. Doublecheck before you spend any dollars.

Electronic Gift Cards are the biggest profits because most of the customers forgot to use them.

Watch out for additional service contracts, waste of money...Best Buy is quick to take your money...but never honor any values.

Nov 6, 2011 4:16PM
best buy is horrible. i will never use them again. i had an account with them starting in 1992. i paid the balance off twice. in 2009 my wife and i were in calif. visiting relatives. my wife suffered a detached retina and had to have surgery. we had to stay there an extra 6 weeks because they put an air bubble in her eye for recovery, and we couldn't travel to our home in colorado until the bubble disappeared due to the altitude where we live. we were 15 days late with the payment and they closed our account. they sent a notice and said to call and they would work with us. we called and said the only way they would work with us is if we sent them 900.00. i told them to go f-ck themselves. i am totally disabled and looked online to see how the co. law read on this situation. i found out they couldn't collect any money because i am totally disabled. they have turned my account to an attorney who calls every day wanting to reach a settlemet agreement. i owed 3900.00. now it is up to 11000.00 since 2009. my credit will be messed up for 7 years even if i settle, so i decided NOT to and let them write it off and pay the attorney too. LOL 
Nov 7, 2011 12:39AM
Thank you Klaus. couldn't have said it better.
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