Why Gift Cards Are Better Than Cash Bonuses for Employees

  • author

    BHN Rewards

  • posted

    May 09, 2023

  • topic

    Employee Rewards

Why Gift Cards Are Better Than Cash Bonuses for Employees

More than a third of businesses are increasing their rewards spending in the next year, according to research from Blackhawk Network.

Interestingly, 81% offer gift cards and prepaid cards as part of their rewards program, but only 41% give cash bonuses for employees.

In-office perks (58%), branded apparel (50%), and trophies/awards (36%) rounded out the most-used reward types cited by companies in the study.

When you consider the benefits that gift cards bring to rewards programs, these results are less surprising. If you still need convincing, though, here are some reasons that gift cards may be a better choice than cash bonuses for employees.

READ MORE: Download our full 2022 Employee Incentives Report!

They’re Preferred by Employees

It’s true! Our research shows that gift cards are the top requested reward by employees. At 90%, gift cards were requested 20% more than bonuses, which came in second at 72%.

Gift cards also outperformed additional vacation days (65%), in-office perks like food and social events (40%), and apparel (34%). Why? Employees enjoy an outside-of-work “treat,” rather than money, which, since it’s included on their paycheck, often ends up going to pay for bills or essentials. When you receive a digital gift card, you can use it to buy something you might not normally have purchased, making it feel more like a special gift.

They’re Friendlier on Budgets

Cash bonuses for employees are often tied to a budget separate from your rewards program. So when the word comes down that you can’t give out bonuses, you can usually still spend on some gift cards to boost morale and productivity.

When cash bonuses are off the table, Visa and Mastercard prepaid digital gift cards are a great option because they can be spent just like cash.

They’re Still Meaningful at Smaller Denominations

Giving cash bonuses for employees can be tricky when you’re under a tight budget. Unless the amount you’re authorized to hand out is significant, it won’t have a lot of impact when it’s added to a team member’s normal paycheck as part of their direct deposit — after taxes and preset retirement contributions are taken out. And let’s face it, that money isn’t going as far as it used to.

The beauty of gift cards is that even a small amount can make a favorable impression. By choosing rewards for places you know your employee loves to frequent, like their favorite coffee shop or a nearby fast-casual restaurant, you can make it more personalized, thoughtful, and impactful.

They Have Built-In Flexibility

Digital gift cards are all about options — options for you and options for them.

Employers can leverage gift cards to run themed promotions that reward employees who meet sales quotas, for example. Sales reps who sell the most can enjoy their own personal “spring break,” earning gift cards to Airbnb and Delta Airlines. Why not kick in an extra vacation day or two to make it even better?

And employees love being able to choose their own rewards, which can be something practical like a grocery gift card, meaningful like a charity donation, or splurge-worthy, like a day at the spa.

Plus, you can usually hand out gift cards far more often than cash bonuses for employees, making it easier to reward on a regular basis and keep your team engaged with your rewards program.

They Can Be Delivered Instantly and Publicly for More Impact

Recognizing employees in public — whether in-person or online — can go a long way toward fostering a corporate culture where employees feel valued for their contributions. Nearly half of employees (46%) surveyed in our report say they want to be recognized at a company event with others. But they also want the corresponding reward quickly: More than 50% say it has less impact if it takes too long to receive. Even when cash bonuses for employees are announced at a public event, they still aren’t delivered until at least the next pay cycle.

That’s where a tool like BHN Rewards comes in. With so many companies moving to a remote or hybrid workplace, our integration with Microsoft Teams lets you deliver digital gift cards instantly and publicly, live during virtual meetings or shared to a channel.

Learn more about BHN Rewards for Microsoft Teams and how it can increase the effectiveness of your employee rewards program.

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BHN Rewards

BHN Rewards puts the power of digital rewards to work for marketers, researchers, and HR managers. Don't forget to check out all the great content in our Resources section!

BHN Rewards puts the power of digital rewards to work for marketers, researchers, and HR managers. Don't forget to check out all the great content in our Resources section!