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Multiple Balances, One Gift Card: Facebook Introduces a New Piece of Plastic




facebook gift cardAll hail the guy who invented the gift card. These nifty bits of plastic allow you to buy what you want with someone else’s money. It doesn’t get better than that.

The only downside to gift cards is that you have to carry them in your wallet, remember to use them and mentally keep track of how much is left on each one. Facebook has a solution – sort of.

Introducing the Facebook Card, which isn’t what you think it is when you hear the name.

The Facebook Card is a gift card that has nothing to do with Facebook except that you buy it through the site. Here’s how it works:

The buyer selects a retailer and amount from a list of Facebook partners. Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Target are all part of the initial rollout. Depending on how things go, more retailers should sign on.

facebook gift card 2

Buyer pays, recipient gets notified and eventually gets an actual card in the mail. Once they have a card, all future Facebook Card credits go directly to that card no matter who sends it. The card keeps track of multiple balances at each of the stores and you can view your balances through Facebook or Facebook mobile. Thusly:

facebook gift card 3

There’s a lot to like here. Having all of your balances on one card instead of a dozen cards makes things easier. You don’t need a wallet full of plastic, just whip out this one card, do your business and move on. The one annoying thing about gift cards is keeping track of the balance, so having all that information in one place with phone access is terrific.

I also like that it allows different people to contribute to the pot. Let’s say your daughter’s going off to college. You gift her a Facebook Card with a $100 balance from Target. Now, Aunt Sue and Cousin Milly can add their $25 each to the same pot giving your daughter enough money to outfit her dorm before she goes. And by combining the totals, you don’t end up with a dozen cards with under a dollar on each.

I wonder how many cards are thrown away each year while they still have a few cents on them?

For consumers, this is a good deal, but I’m surprised retailers are buying into this. Right off the bat, they lose their branding. Now, I look in my wallet at lunch time, see the Olive Garden GC and say to myself, I should go there. With the Facebook Card, I see a field of blue and I think, hmm….do I still have Olive Garden money or is that the last of the Sephora GC Uncle Ralph sent me last Christmas. . . . .  I have to pull out my phone, check my balances and by then I’ve decided to eat at McDonalds instead.

It’s not a huge issue, but companies go through a lot of trouble to develop a brand and a logo but with this deal it’s Facebook who gets the recognition.

And that’s the only downside I can see for consumers. Do you really want to tell the world, every time you pay, that you hang out on Facebook?

As interesting as the idea is, I think it’s going to fail because Facebook is not a retailer. Their earlier attempts to align with retailers have not been very successful. Facebook needs to stick to doing what they do best, run social network that informs and entertains. They have no business in the gift card business.

Agree or disagree?

  • Doc Sheldon

    Interesting, Cynthia. I would share your surprise at the brand stores going along with this, except I suspect it was kind of slipped past them without much thought. The bigger question may be, how long will they allow it to continue, once it gets some attention upstairs.

    As for Facebook being able to break out of strictly social, I really don’t see why not. There was a time that Google was strictly search. Then ads, Then social…so who knows?

  • ali naqvi

    Fantastic idea…it’s performing job well using cards for promoting your idea’s..keep it up.!!!!!