A woman uses an iPad with a Facebook app in this photo illustration in Sofia January 30, 2013. (Photo : Reuters)
Facebook is offering a new way to spend and give, unveiling a branded gift card that consumers can use both on and offline at partnered merchants.
"People can buy the gift cards for friends from Facebook.com and choose from brands such as Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora and Target. (These are the first four partners using the service.) Recipients will receive the cards in the mail and can use them at the relevant retailer," writes Forbes.
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The card is reusable and reloadable, so conceivably, multiple users can give recurrent gifts that are automatically applies to the available balance on the card. Unfortunately, each retailer tied to the card has its own associated balance. So while a card might have $50 available to spend at Target, there might only be 27 cents left at Sephora, which really is one of the most frustrating things about gift cards in general: having your money is tied up in things you don't need.
Still, it's convenient.
"Gift recipients can view their gift balances in their account settings on Facebook from either their phone or desktop, the company says. And Facebook will use push notifications to alert users to balance changes," writes TechCrunch. "This move could foreshadow increased integration of Gifts and Payments on mobile in the future, but for now things are still in plastic card territory."
That last point is interesting. For now, the Facebook Card seems like a pretty lame gift. It's just as impersonal as a regular gift card, but more restrictive than a MasterCard or Visa branded card, which can be used nearly everywhere. Of course, more retailers will likely team up with Facebook in the future, so I suspect this is really just a way for the company to break into finance, banking and mobile payments. Don't like PayPal or Google Wallet? Don't know what Dwolla is? Well, you trust Facebook, so send money to friends you owe right from their profile page. Oh, you know it's coming.