Seriously. Last December, my hospital employer gave all of us $50 Amex “Gift Cheques.” Mine is sitting right in front of me as I ponder where in the world I’m going to use it and what I’m going to do with it.
Apparently, our employer thought that this would be a better idea than giving us gift-cards (ok, I’m with you on this I guess) because they can be theoretically used anywhere and don’t expire and better than an extra paycheck or an extra $50 in the paycheck. Um, no.
It’s certainly shiny, gold, and pretty, but it’s also sitting around and taunting me.
You see, I manage all my money either at ATMs or online. I use the self-check out (because I’m a good scanner from all the library work) and I always pay by debit card or cash (not check) to avoid holding up the line. Or I buy things online.
But this check must be received by a cashier, either at a bank or a store. It cannot be redeemed online or deposited into an ATM.
So what my employer gave me is actually a headache. One of these days, I suppose that I’m going to go to our fancier Giant (no difference in price but better selection and more helpful employees) at a less-busy time and use it. Apparently if I don’t spend the whole $50, I get the rest in cash, so at least it’s a one-time headache.
I prize efficiency and not getting in people’s way. I don’t want to use the bank because it’s very inefficient for me to drive across town. It’s also time-consuming since there’s always a line and I’ll be holding up the other people in that line just because my employer couldn’t put it with my regular paycheck or give me something I could use elsewhere. Or I’ll spend more time in line at the Giant and hold up people there as the clerk follows the redemption procedures. Heaven help us if I get a clerk that has no clue what to do with it (though the instructions are on the back).
What were you thinking, employer? I could have used this money months ago if only it had been in a check I could deposit or even an Amex gift card I could use. It would have cost you less to print the checks yourself and been less logistically difficult, I expect.
I have half a mind to take it to the library, use it to buy a $1.00 used book, and then get cash back from a sympathetic coworker. However, we rarely have more than $50 in our till, so that wouldn’t work.
I don’t like creating hassle in the world when I don’t have to. I don’t like it for me and I don’t like it for others. But if I want this $50, I have no choice.
So if you have thought of giving your friend, relative, or employee an American Express Gift Cheque, I strongly ask you to consider both these questions:
a) Do ALL the recipients frequently go to their banks?
b) Do ALL the recipients pay for things by check anyway?
If neither answer is yes, then abstain. Find another way to give the money. I would suggest giving cash (or a check) in one of those red envelopes if you want to make it look pretty and special. And if you’re an employer of thousands, I can guarantee that not all your employees do either. And that many handle their banking/spending the way I do.
And if you’ve been given an American Express Gift Cheque and ran across this article hoping to find a loophole, I’m sorry to report that there are none. You must use it in front of a clerk, you may not deposit it in an ATM or use it online.