It’s all about consumer safety.
trader joes gift cards
Credit: Getty Images/Trader Joes

It's 2022, and gift card ideas are near ubiquitous. You can pick up a gift card almost anywhere, for almost anything—you can even get gift cards at Trader Joe's. Grocery store gift cards may not be flashy, but they're extremely practical, and are often one of the most appreciated and useful presents you can give another person, especially given rising food prices. And since Trader Joe's stocks more than pantry staples and frozen meals, you can rest assured that any gift card you give or receive will go a long way.

However, there's some fine print associated with TJ's gift cards that you should know about before buying one or giving one to someone in your life. While many brands issue and accept e-gift cards, online gift cards, and digital gift certificates, the California-based retailer only sells and accepts physical gift cards—aka those rectangular pieces of plastic you keep in your wallet.  

While physical gift cards are frustratingly easier to lose or misplace, Trader Joe's notes that its decision to use concrete gift cards is based on consumer safety. Furthermore, if you wish to purchase a Trader Joe's gift card, you can only do so by visiting a brick-and-mortar location.

"Trader Joe's only issues and accepts physical gift cards in our physical stores. We do not issue or accept printable or digital versions of our gift cards," the Trader Joe's website states. "We choose this approach to better protect the original purchaser or recipient of our gift cards."

This gift card policy likely does protect buyers and recipients alike from fraud, but it also makes it a little trickier to give a Trader Joe's gift card to someone who doesn't live near a store (TJ's doesn't offer online shopping). In that sense, the policy really helps you avoid giving a well-intentioned gift to someone who likely won't be able to use it.

While you may spot Trader Joe's gift cards on third party websites, we suggest playing by the rules and picking up any and all of these thoughtful presents at your local Trader Joe's outpost. Sure, it means you'll have to make a trip to your go-to TJ's locale to pick up the card, but that just gives you the opportunity to pick up more delicious Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel items while you're out.

So remember: If you see an ad or special offering Trader Joe's gift cards online, ignore it; those cards aren't issued by Trader Joe's and may not be accepted by the store. You may have stumbled upon a well-intentioned gift card resale, but it might also be a scam—save yourself a lot of stress by just picking up a gift card the next time you're at the store, and stock up on some delicious chocolate or truffle products while you're at it!