Open-Loop vs. Closed-Loop Gift Cards

Gift Cards are simple right? You buy or receive a gift card to Best Buy so that you can buy something at Best Buy! Well…  Closed-Loop gift cards like that are simple. That said, open-loop gift cards and newer hybrid-loop gift cards are a little more complicated. Below we tell you everything you need to know about open-loop vs. closed-loop (& hybrid-loop) gift cards.

Closed-Loop Gift Cards

Closed-loop gift cards are best defined as gift cards that can only be used at one brand or one family of brands. For example, Best Buy gift cards can only be used at Best Buy. Olive Garden gift cards can only be used at the Darden family of brands (like Longhorn or Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen).

Open-Loop Gift Cards

Open-loop gift cards are substantially more flexible as they can typically be used almost anywhere credit cards are accepted. Open-loop gift cards are typically processed by the three major credit processors (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) which are accepted at 99%+ of US merchants.

 

Open-Loop Gift Card Issuers

There are multiple companies that issue open-loop gift cards but the three vendors that you will likely see most often include:

  1. MetaBank – MetaBank is a traditional retail bank with branches in Iowa and South Dakota. That said, open-loop gift cards issued by Metbank are available nationwide at retailers such as Staples.
  2. US Bank – US Bank is another traditional retail bank with branches nationwide.
  3. Sutton Bank – Sutton Bank is a small traditional retail bank with 8 branches in Ohio. Like MetaBank and US Bank, however, open-loop gift cards issued by Sutton Bank are available nationwide and online at retailers such as giftcards.com.

 

Hybrid-Loop (Multi-Brand) Gift Cards

Traditionally, gift cards were limited to closed-loop and open-loop. That said, Blackhawk Networks has proven very innovative with new hybrid-loop gift cards. Hybrid-loop gift cards is not a technical term but a Gift Card Report term. We define hybrid-loop gift cards as gift cards that can be used at multiple different brands/brand families but cannot be used everywhere.

Happy Gift Cards

In June 2018, Blackhawk Networks introduced ‘Happy Cards’. What makes Happy Cards unique is they are redeemable at multiple brands from different parent companies. According to the company, Happy Cards are ‘perfect for gifting on special occasions to targeted recipients such as women, men, kids, teens and foodies’. While Blackhawk initially launched the brand with 7 variations including Happy Lady/Kid/Teen/Guy/Eats/Bites/Dining, the brand has now expanded to 25 variations across three categories including:

Fun

  • Happy Birthday
  • Yay You
  • Thank You
  • Treat Yourself
  • Pack & Go
  • Happy Just Because
  • Happy #BestDadEver
  • Happy #BestMomEver
  • Happy Holidays
  • Happy Treats
  • Happy Moments

Food

  • Game & Grub
  • Let’s Eat
  • Food & Laughs
  • Happy Eats
  • Happy Holidays Dining

Shopping

  • Retail Therapy
  • Oh Baby
  • Your Time
  • Cheers To You
  • Happy Dad
  • Happy Mom
  • Happy Grad
  • Happy Graduation
  • Happy Teen
  • Happy Bride

For a complete brand breakdown of each card across the Happy & Giving Good ecosystem, click here

 

Giving Good

In September 2020, Blackhawk Networks introduced Giving Good Cards. Giving Good Cards are very similar to Happy Cards as they are redeemable across a list of brands rather than just one. That said, Giving Good Cards are unique as 3% of the load-value of the card is donated to the charitable partner listed on the card. Blackhawk launched the brand with the five charitable partners:

  • Feeding America
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Make-A-Wish
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Wounded Warrior Project

Since launch, Blackhawk has additionally added American Cancer Society.

For a complete brand breakdown of each card across the Happy & Giving Good ecosystem, click here

 

Spafinder

In September 2016, Blackhawk Networks acquired Spafinder Wellness. Spafinder is a hybrid-loop gift card that can be used across a multitude of partner spas across the United States.

 

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Open-Loop vs. Closed-Loop Gift Cards