Bank- and credit card company-issued gift cards (called open-loop cards) generally receive fewer positive reviews than retailer cards because they're more likely to charge maintenance, dormancy and purchase fees, among other reasons. However, they are often still more appealing than a retailer card, as they're accepted anywhere the issuing credit card company is accepted. Among these open-loop gift cards, American Express offers the most flexibility.
According to CreditCards.com, American Express is the only open-loop card to offer electronic delivery, and their cards do not expire or charge dormancy or maintenance fees. Another surveyor, ScripSmart.com, rates the "consumer friendliness" of gift cards with a score between 0 and 100. No bank card scores as well as top retailer cards, but American Express does the best in its category with 83 points for its eGift Card (the plastic card scores only 72). Both sites point out downsides of the card, including a $2.95 purchase fee and the card's "valid thru" date (while the value doesn't expire, the user must request the remaining value be transferred to a new card after the "valid thru" date).
Despite thorough tallies of American Express and other bank card's objective pros and cons, high-quality user reviews of open-loop gift cards are not available.
CreditCards.com spends nearly a month surveying 63 top retailers, restaurants, airlines and credit card companies annually. In its 2011 round-up, the site does not specifically offer its top picks for gift cards, but instead lists features provided by each card. American Express was the only open-loop card to offer electronic delivery, and their cards do not expire or charge dormancy or maintenance fees. CreditCards.com does not gauge subjective elements like user satisfaction or ease of redemption.
Review: 2011 Gift Card Comparison Chart, Juan Rodriguez, Kate Tomasino and Matt Schulz, Oct. 26, 2011
ScripSmart uses an algorithm to rate the "consumer friendliness" of a gift card resulting in a score between 0 and 100. No bank cards score very well, but American Express does the best with 83 points. The downside to ScripSmart's review is that the company doesn't list specific attributes that contribute to "consumer friendliness."
Review: American Express eGift Card, Editors of ScripSmart.com, As of Nov. 2011