We admit it, we’re not the biggest fans of gift cards as holiday gifts. It can seem somewhat last minute and impersonal. Then again, there are some great gift cards out there, and if it’s for the right store or service, a gift card may be exactly what your loved one is hoping for.

Fortunately, there are so many pretty gift card designs available from many of our favorite places. We rounded up some of the most attractive ones, so that you can find the right way to help someone splurge (and help you feel better about going the gift card route). –Delilah

1. Starbucks

Whether you select a card in the store while grabbing a peppermint mocha or pick a pretty e-gift card, Starbucks is rarely a gift card that anyone will turn down. It’s nice to go for a drink, a mug, or one of those nummylicious cake pops and realize…wait! I don’t have to pay for this! They have tons of cute designs, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Thank You, or just snowmen or mugs. They’ve even got a Kwanzaa card.

Project (RED) Starbucks Gift Card

You can also make the gift more charitable by getting a Starbucks + iTunes e-gift card from PROJECT (RED). For $30, half goes to Starbucks, half towards iTunes, and 5% of it supports the excellent Global Fund to eliminate AIDS.

2. Etsy

Etsy Gift Card

Etsy gift cards are only available via email and print at-home versions, and they make it awfully hard to get a good screen grab, but I’ll be darned if those wiggly illustrations of scarves and gloves aren’t adorable in your inbox, especially when you’ve got up to $250 to spend. Need ideas? We love handmade, so search Cool Mom Picks for “Etsy” to turn up hundreds of hits.

3. American Express

American Express Gift Card

This is the kind of card favored by classrooms for teachers’ gifts, since it can buy pretty much anything, anywhere, and never expires. expire. If you use your AmEx regularly, you can even use your Membership Reward points to buy gift cards, although you do have to pay to ship printed ones. Otherwise, stick with an e-card for a good last-minute option.

4. Chipotle

Chipotle Gift Cards

The possible winner for coolest-looking gift card? Surprisingly, Chipotle. Inside that foil reindeer is a meal containing all the food groups that most kids will dig. Choose from several holiday e-card designs in different price ranges, including a snow man made of wadded up foil.

5. Target

Target Gift Cards

As far as style goes, Target has tons of unusual and pretty gift cards, including some that come with built-in toys for kids. While some are a little more cutesy than others, there are also some featuring mod typography, elegant snowflakes, and  $5-$1000 worth of toys, home goods, electronics…well, you know. Everything. It is Target after all. Sending a gift card does take 5-8 days for delivery, so consider picking it up in person or sending an e-card.

6. iTunes

iTunes Gift Card

iTunes has come a long way from cards that just say iTunes on them. Aside from the basic design, the $25 holiday card is green, the $50 holiday card is burgundy, and both are festive and fun, as you’d expect. Don’t forget they also cover purchases in the App Store and iBookstore. It’s in fact one of our recommended ways to make a new tech gift more personal.

7. Amazon

Amazon Gift Card

There’s very little you can’t buy with an Amazon gift card these days, and they’ve got dozens of designs ranging from cute to traditional to elegant, each available in any dollar amount from $.15 to $2000. You can even put your own photo on the front! For instance: a pic of the kids holding up a sign that reads “Go get that camera!” Personal and fun.


Bliss Gift Card

Know a new mom or someone who could use some pampering? Bliss packages their simple, elegant gift cards just beautifully. The lucky recipient can use it toward all the goodies at blissworld.com, or at a Bliss Spa (like in any W hotel). One word: massage.

9. Lowe’s

Lowe's Gift Card

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for either a dude who likes dude things or a handy mama who’s all about the fixing-up, Lowe’s has gift cards that straddle the line between cute and masculine. They’re available from $5 to $500, include free standard shipping, and never expire. They’re also a great way to inspire a little handyman work, if you happen to have a fridge that runs loud. Like mine. Ahem.

10. Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble Gift Card

We believe that books are always a great gift, and I’m not just saying that because I’m an author. [Ed: She’s being modest. Delilah is a newly published author!] Whether you opt for an actual card or an e-card delivered straight to someone’s inbox, B&N has tons of designs from classic children’s illustrators to Hunger Games, starting at just $5.

Personalized Barnes and Noble Gift Cards

You can also personalize your cards with photos right on the site for an extra $4.50, plus you pick the card it comes in. Both of which will make opening that little envelope that much more lovely.

One tip: Just check on the shipping dates for any of these cards. At this point you may want to send an e-card acknowledgment (card is coming!) or just grab it yourself in store to make it in time for Christmas.