Gift Cards Made Easy: Why Gyft Works

By Ben Carsley, Writer/Editor

Odds are you received one or two gift cards this holiday season. If so, Gyft could be the perfect new app for you.

That’s the conclusion I’ve reached after using Gyft for the iPhone 5 over the past few days. I spoke to Gyft co-founder C.J. MacDonald back in November, and thought the app sounded like a great idea at the time. Unfortunately, back then I was still using a Droid, and so didn’t have the opportunity to review the app until now. (Gyft has since released the app for Android, but I digress.)

Gyft isn’t perfect, but by and large, it was worth the wait. I assess its strengths and weaknesses in this app review.

Basic Design And Adding Cards

Gyft’s basic design is aesthetically pleasing with large sliding cards listed clearly from a main screen on a background designed to look like finished wood. In addition to images that link to each card you upload, Gyft also includes slides that encourage you to integrate with Facebook (a common theme, but more on that later), upload more cards, invite friends, claim codes and send cards.

In addition to the main screen, there’s a menu panel that gives you immediate access to card-add and card-send functions, as well as a settings tab that gives you access to profile details, social media and notification options and some standard features such as Gyft’s terms of service and privacy policy.

When it comes to adding cards to the app, Gyft’s platform is intuitive and simple. You simply search for cooperating merchants, add the card number and are then prompted to add the security code – a process familiar to anyone who’s made an online purchase with a card before.

Gyft’s selection of cooperating merchants is pretty impressive, and of the gift cards I wanted to add, the only merchant I found that wasn’t listed was Subway. For this review, I added cards for Barnes and Noble, Dunkin’ Donuts, Old Navy and AMC. For the most part my balance was automatically calculated, which is great. For the older AMC gift card, though, I had to manually enter the amount on the card.

In-Store Redemption

Interestingly enough, in-store redemption for Gyft is what I was most worried about but was in fact far and way the most successful aspect of the app. I tested the app in a Dunkin’ Donuts, and was anticipating needing to explain to the cashier how to scan my phone. In fact, I brought the physical card with me as backup, and made sure I had cash on hand as well, just in case.

But the app worked perfectly. I called up the card, hit redeem and handed the cashier my phone. Within five seconds my transaction was complete and no questions were asked.

The only weird thing about my in-store experience came after my purchase was made. I was prompted to manually log my purchase, so I did, but it later appeared as though the app did this automatically for me as well. You have the option to delete transactions from the app, so this wasn’t a big deal, but it could have easily led to confusion were I not paying attention.

Still, most of the time I use Gyft, it will be to pay for something in-store. That the process was this seamless is hugely important and encouraging.

Online Redemption

Unfortunately for Gyft, my online redemption experience was not as successful as my in-store transaction. I went with Old Navy for my online purchase, as I’m unlikely to actually make a trip to a store, and found that the app wasn’t very helpful at all. Gyft provides a link to Old Navy’s mobile site on its card icon, but that’s where the app’s utility basically ended. The card is not automatically applied to your purchase, and you still need to manually enter the card information during the checkout process.

In this way, Gyft actually made the process more difficult, as I could not see the card info and enter it into the checkout box at the same time. My attempt at copying and pasting the code didn’t work either, as Gyft included the spaces between the code segments, which the checkout box did not accept. I ended up going back to my physical card and plugging in the info manually. It’s good that Gyft doesn’t prevent you from using your card online after its uploaded into the app, but at this point it’s not really an eCommerce tool.

Sending Cards

I give props to Gyft for making this feature incredibly easy and intuitive. After allowing the app access to your contacts, you can select which card you want to send, create a custom message for your recipient and even schedule a date for when the card will be delivered. You can send the card through email or text message, and the Barnes & Nobles card I sent to my sister was received in short order. This is a really cool way to regift cards you’re not going to use, or to send small gifts to friends and loved ones on short notice.

The only annoying thing about the share feature was Gyft’s insistence that you integrate with Facebook, Twitter or Google before you share. I went with Google, and this isn’t a huge deal in reality, but I’m going to take this space to point out that Gyft can get pretty pushy in “encouraging” social media integration. For some, this won’t be a big deal at all. But I don’t like all of my activity broadcast on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I really don’t like being bullied into accepting integration. Gyft’s a cool app that deserves to be shared, and I get what they’re trying to do here, but toning the social emphasis down in future updates would be something I’d like to see.

After integrating with Google, I was gifted a $10 card to Country Outfitter and a $5 card to Diamond Candles. This is a nice gesture, although my likelihood of redeeming either card is pretty small.


Gyft is a great concept, and the ability to keep my gift cards in one app means I’m willing to overlook its minor flaws for now. The potential convenience here can’t really be overstated, as it really enhances the utility of gift cards, especially for merchants you’re unlikely to visit frequently.

That being said, there’s some work to be done here too. I’d strongly advocate toning down the pushy social media integration options and would work on refining the online redemption functionality as well. Overall, though, those are two pretty small gripes considering the card utility Gyft provides. It’s an app I’d seriously consider paying for: that it’s free makes downloading it a no-brainer.



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