If you're giving (or receiving) this super-practical gift this year, listen up.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated October 08, 2019
Trader Joe's gift cards - where you can buy, who sells, online options, and more
Credit: Getty Images/traderjoes.com

It’s 2019, 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, exactly, but they’re extremely practical, and could even end up being one of the best white elephant gifts or raffle prizes at your event. Trader Joe’s gift cards might even be a step above the rest, if you’re a fan of the stores, with all the Trader Joe’s gifts and exclusive items available at your fingertips.

If you’re going to make a present out of a Trader Joe’s gift card—or if you’ve received one—there’s some fine print you’re going to want to pay attention to, though. Trader Joe’s gift cards aren’t exactly new, but they may be growing in popularity, especially as the holiday season nears. (A Trader Joe’s gift card might not be glamorous, but it would be a great, practical option for a teacher or a friend just starting out on their own so they can pick up some of the best items at Trader Joe’s.)

With the upcoming gift-friendly holidays likely top of mind, the Trader Joe’s communications team recently released a reminder about the grocery store’s gift card system. Trader Joe’s issues and accepts physical gift cards only. That means no e-gift cards, no online gift cards, no digital gift certificates; if you want to give someone the gift of Trader Joe’s, you have to go to one of your area Trader Joe’s locations to purchase the card.

“We choose this approach to better protect the original purchaser or recipient of our gift cards,” the statement reads. This gift card policy likely does protect givers 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 can’t use it.

If you’re wondering who sells Trader Joe’s gift cards or trying to figure out where you can buy one, the answer is simple: Trader Joe’s, and Trader Joe’s only. Sure, it means you’ll have to make a physical trip 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. It may be 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.