How Are Gift Cards Made? The Production Process

If you’ve ever found yourself looking at your gift card and wondered, “how are gift cards made?”, then this article should scratch your itch.

The production process is pretty methodical and each step plays a crucial role in the end result you see in your hand.

It begins with a blank piece of PVC plastic card, where the customer’s logo and design come to life through printing on top of the plastic.

Next, is the finish; with common options like UV coating and lamination. This is done to add a protective layer to ensure your card is durable, but also gives different looks and feels to the card.

Then, you’re looking at numbering the cards; this happens with bar codes, magnetic stripes, and human-readable numbers that make each card unique.

Still need more detail? We’ve got you. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of gift card production and go into more depth about how they’re made.

Key Takeaways

  • Gift cards are printed on PVC plastic and customized with the customer’s logo and design.
  • The cards are finished using either UV coating or lamination to protect the printed design and create a smooth, aesthetically pleasing and durable card product.
  • Card numbering is the final step in production and involves adding unique numbers using methods like thermal transfer or inkjet.
  • Gift card programs are important for businesses because they can generate revenue, attract new customers, and increase sales. Choosing the right program is crucial for success.
  • Gift cards are recyclable and many are reloadable

Step 1: Printing Gift Cards – Reproducing the Customer’s Logo and Design

At companies that specialize in the production of gift cards, generally, most physical gift cards start off as a piece of blank PVC plastic, the same size as a credit card.

They make sure that each card is customized to meet the customer’s unique needs, such as reproducing the customer’s logo and design on each gift card they print.

Step 1: involves carefully replicating the company’s design (Some card production companies will even offer personalized and eye-catching card designs that aligns with the customer’s brand identity, in-house.)

This can include a company logo, a special image, or a specific color scheme to capture the essence of the customer’s vision.

Step 2: Finishing Gift Cards – UV Coating and Lamination

UV coating and lamination are two of the most common finish options for gift cards. These choices often provide the gift card protection, enhances their durability and makes them look professional.

What Are the Differences Between the Two Gift Card Finishes?

  • UV coating: A thin layer of clear ink applied over the printed image. This makes the card shiny, slippery and less likely to scratch. (I prefer this finish as, in my opinion, it looks more vibrant and natural)
  • Lamination: is an additional layer of plastic which is firmly placed over the printed image. This tends to create a smooth and long-lasting gift card. This can also look good, for example, Platen lamination produces a very smooth mirror or matte finish.

These protective finishes not only keep the custom design on the gift cards safe, but is also done in order to extend their lifespan.

Pros and Cons

UV coating: adds a glossy sheen to the cards, which makes them look more natural and visually appealing (in my opinion) and gives them resistance to wear and tear. It’s also a much faster process in the production cycle. However, UV coating DOES crack if your card bends or folds too far.

Lamination: provides a thicker layer of protection, but this tends to come at the expense of vibrant colors, though some people may prefer this look. Lamination ensures the design remains intact even with frequent use and bending. It also takes longer in the production process.

Step 3 – Numbering Gift Cards: Barcodes, Magnetic Stripes, and Human-Readable Numbers

Barcodes, magnetic stripes, and human-readable numbers are all used in the production process to assign a unique identification to each individual gift card. Which one depends on the company the gift card is being made for.

These numbering methods offer several advantages (and some disadvantages over each other) in the production process.

Pros and Cons of Barcode Vs Magnetic Stripes on Gift Cards

Both methods offer pros and cons in the production of gift cards:

Barcode numbering: allows for quick and accurate scanning and ensures seamless transactions at the point of sale. With a simple scan by the retailer, your gift card information is retrieved, making it convenient for both customers and businesses. It doesn’t offer quite as much security as magnetic strips though.

Magnetic stripe: this type of numbering provides increased security as your encoded data is stored on the magnetic stripe. This makes it far more difficult to tamper with or for scammers to duplicate. With a magnetic stripe number system, you can also make use of easy reloading of funds onto the gift card, which may provide a better end user experience.

In the end, both barcode and magnetic stripe numbering methods offer efficiency, security, and convenience when using your gift card, making them both a useful part of your modern retail experience.

Advantages of Barcode NumberingAdvantages of Magnetic Stripe Numbering
– Quick and accurate scanning– Increased security
– Seamless transactions– Difficult to tamper or duplicate
– Convenient for customers– Easy reloading of funds

Ensuring Unique Numbers: Avoiding Duplicates in Gift Card Production

Duplicate card numbers could be costly to businesses. To make sure each gift card has a unique number, the gift card production company implement methods that prevent the occurrence of duplicate numbers.

The production team often utilize different methods like thermal transfer and inkjet for numbering, to make sure numbers are clear and legible.

Of course barcodes and magnetic strips must also be unique to avoid multiple use and one, very unhappy, gift card user!

These methods are generally precise and efficient, allowing for accurate and distinct numbering on each gift card.

These days, small businesses will tend to have software built into their point-of-sale system to make adjustments to every gift card as and when they’re used, though this software will normally automate the process.

Gift Card Production Frequently Asked Questions

How Is the Customer’s Logo and Design Reproduced on Each Gift Card?

The customer’s logo and design are replicated on each gift card usually via a printer, which provides printing in full colour on both sides, with either a high gloss or matte finish, depending on what the company prefers.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Using UV Coating for Finishing Gift Cards?

UV coating offers several benefits for finishing gift cards. It enhances the durability of the card, making it less prone to scratches. Additionally, the coating provides a sleek and professional appearance, adding value to the overall aesthetic of the gift card.

What Methods Can Be Used to Ensure Unique Numbers and Avoid Duplicates in Gift Card Production?

To ensure unique numbers and avoid duplicates in gift card production, careful implementation and automated accurate tracking systems are used. The end result includes bar codes, magnetic stripe encoding, and human-readable numbers.

Are Paper or Plastic Gift Cards Better?

It’s rare to find paper gift cards, but I’m old enough to remember them! Gift cards have come a long way and more are now pvc gift cards, rather than paper gift certificates. 

Polyvinyl chloride gift cards are more robust than those made from paper and less prone to damage. 

Plus, they can be reloaded, kept in a wallet with the rest of your cards and look much sleeker, so they’re easier to market.

Although plastic isn’t ideal for the environment, you can recycle them in your recycling bin so they don’t need to go to waste.

Many plastic gift cards are also able to be reloaded in most cases too, making them a little more sustainable than they otherwise first might appear to be.

Availability is also something to consider, retailers like Publix that sell gift cards, will almost always sell pvc cards.

But some companies like Amazon offer options of where to buy gift cards and whether they’re digital or plastic.

Finally, there are many more creative ways to give gift cards, to give gift cards when they’re made of plastic, such as personalizing the card design. 

How Can Gift Card Programs Attract New Customers and Increase Sales for Businesses?

Gift card programs can attract new customers and increase sales for businesses by offering loyalty programs and digital integration. Gift cards tend to create a sense of belonging and are convenient.

Once a customer is gifted one, they are encouraged to choose and use their gift cards for their purchases.

Stats also show that people who use gift cards, on average, spend 40% more than the value of the gift card in the retailer. There are also so many cases of unused gift cards!


Whether you’re curious about creating your own gift cards or simply daydreaming and randomly wondered how gift cards are made, we hope this article answered your question.

If you’re as old as I am, you may remember paper gift cards, but new gift cards are often pvc which is preferred by the gift card industry.

The importance of gift cards to businesses can’t be overstated. I’ve often been asked, “what’s the point of them?” and the answer is quite simple.

They generate more revenue for businesses by attracting new customers and boosting sales. We explain how in much more depth in our article about why gift cards exist.


“People using gift cards spend 40% more than the value of the voucher on purchases in store or online”:

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