Supermarket gift cards a good Choice

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 18th November 2010

Consumer group CHOICE has recommended gift cards for both of Australia’s big two supermarkets over more specialised cards this Christmas, and gave top honours to Wesfarmers’ hardware chain, Bunnings.

According to Choice, many gift cards offer limited and confusing options to recipients, commonly with time limits, which are often allowed to expire unused. CHOICE said that gift cards and vouchers had been the subject of numerous complaints to them over the years.

“About $1.5 billion worth of gift cards were purchased in the last financial year. About three in four participants in a recent CHOICE survey told us they’d received at least one gift card in the past 12 months, with a similar proportion giving one as a present in the same period. More than half experienced the biggest pitfall of gift cards – it expired before they were able to use its full value,” said author, Uta Mihm.

CHOICE said that another major problem with gift cards was finding somewhere to use them, with supermarket gift cards offering recipients a much greater opportunity to use their full value.

“According to a survey by the University of Melbourne and Cardlimbo, about 20% of gift card recipients wouldn’t usually shop at their card’s store(s) and many let those cards expire unused. The advantage of the Coles and Woolies cards is that they allow you to buy everyday items such as groceries, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to use them,” said Mihm.

The Bunnings gift card has no expiry date, and allows recipients to recieve up to $9.95 in cash as change, earning it the top spot in the review. In second place was the Coles/Myer card (both also owned by Wesfarmers) with a two-year expiry period and usable at a variety of Wesfarmers businesses, including Myer, Target, Kmart, Coles, Bi-Lo, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and Officeworks.

Woolies’ Wish card took third place, with only a 12-month expiry, but allowing online shopping and allowing the replacement of lost or stolen cards. Again, a wide variety of redeemable locations boosted the card’s value, including Woolworths and Safeway, Woolworths and Safeway Liquor, Big W, Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Thomas Dux and some Dick Smith and Caltex outlets.