Gift shopping for your children and grandchildren was easy when they were little and you could simply grab a toy or game designed for their age.

But now they’re older, and they know their own minds. And by the time you’ve even heard about the latest must-have, chances are it’s long out-of-date.

All of which makes gift cards the easiest, and often smartest, solution.

Feeling guilty about not getting a physical gift? Don’t. Research has shown that people enjoy gifts they chose themselves more than ones that are unexpected.

 That said, not every gift card goes equally appreciated. According to, almost $1 billion in gift card value was left on the table in 2015. 

So this year, move beyond the usual triumvirate of Amazon, iTunes and Starbucks cards, and seek out stores that reflect the younger generations’ actual age and tastes.

Below are some of the best choices in every category. It’s not too late!


Between ages 10-12, kids’ identities shift away from their own families and towards the world at large. They want to fit in with their peers, and savor any possible opportunities to go off on their own.

Happy Teen. For the first time, kids this age might get to spend time at the mall without adults. Happy cards are redeemable at a variety of stores and restaurants such as Regal Cinemas, Sephora, Dave & Buster’s, Nike, Barnes & Noble, Jamba Juice, and American Eagle.

Steam. Got a junior gamer in your life? Steam offers deals on the latest in software and hardware. Gamestop is another favorite.

Claire’s. Fashionable jewelry, makeup and accessories at easy-on-the-wallet prices.


At this point, kids have developed very specific tastes and interests. Forget clothing, and think experiences.

Gas cards. Their excitement over finally getting their license will be tempered by the reality check that gas is expensive. Ask their parents for a heads up on what stations are near them, and then buy at an online discount gift card retailer such as

Sephora or Ulta. There’s an enormous industry of YouTube video tutorials on how to apply every kind of makeup, with an equally enormous audience of teens eager to try their own hand at it.

Both these beauty retailers offer a huge selection of brands, and you can create an experience around it too. “Throw in a makeover, and you could go with and make a day of it,” suggests shopping expert Michelle Madhok, owner of SHEFinds.

Ticketmaster. The teen years are prime for seeing that first concert that they’ll remember for a lifetime. Fund enough for them to bring a friend, and don’t expect to be invited along.

Early 20s

At this point, young adults are usually finishing school, and many have already made that heady jump into real life—first job, first apartment.

Ikea. Help them deck out their living space, whether it’s a dorm room or a first apartment share.

Netflix. Nowadays, entertainment is all about streaming: Chances are your 20-something child or grandkid doesn’t even own a TV. Pick up the tab for her video budget for a year.

Uber Eats. It’s time to leave Ramen behind. Uber Eats will ferry delicious food right to their door after a hard day’s work.

And if they’re getting serious about cooking, they can find top-notch kitchenware at Sur La Table, as well as cooking classes in anything from hibachi to French soufflés.