Up until September 2011, the only way you could give someone a gift card or certificate to a specific store was to purchase one from that store and then deliver it in paper, plastic, or electronic form to your desired recipient. Since then, Giftly, a San Francisco-based start-up, has been trying to change that by letting you gift almost anything to anyone without the need for a gift card. Giftly lets you purchase an item or service for someone else and then credits the amount of your gift directly to their credit card without requiring them to show anything to the merchant.
Previously, these transactions had to be done via Giftly’s web site from a computer or web-capable phone. But Giftly released a free iPhone app late last week that makes the process much easier and allows more personalization options using the iPhone’s camera.
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Say, for example, that you want to give a friend a manicure at your favorite salon for her birthday. Using the Giftly app you can take a picture of your own freshly-done manicure while you’re at the salon or choose from several cute icons to represent the manicure, specify the location of the salon and the amount of your gift, and then send it to your friend via email, text message, or even Facebook. To redeem this gift, your friend only needs to go to the salon, buy the manicure and then use the app to mark it as used and Giftly will credit the amount you gave to the credit card associated with her Giftly account.
Speaking of Facebook, you can also connect the Giftly app to your Facebook account and use the Gift Watch feature to keep tabs on where your friends check in and have the opportunity to send them Giftlys for those locations. If your friends share their birthdays on Facebook, they’ll also show up on the Gift Watch tab to make giving a Giftly as a birthday gift even easier.
You can track the Giftlys you send through the app to confirm that they’ve been used and see any Giftlys you’ve received from others.
Giftly makes its money by charging a service fee when you purchase a Giftly for someone else based on the amount you give, though they don’t post the schedule for these service charges anywhere so you won’t find out how much the service fee will be until you buy one. The recipient of a Giftly isn’t charged anything and Giftys never expire.
I haven’t purchased a Giftly for anyone else or received one yet but I love the concept (except for the fact that I have no idea what the service charge will be in advance of purchasing a Giftly) and definitely plan to try it out this Christmas.
Giftly is free and available in the App Store now and requires iOS 5.0 or later and works with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, 3rd-generation or higher iPod touch, and all iPad models.