7 Gift Cards That Make Surprisingly Thoughtful Presents

I know what you're thinking. Gift cards are the bane of white elephant exchanges, forced coworker secret Santas, and pretty much every other event involving gifting. They walk the line between overly impersonal and weirdly dictatorial, and nearly every time we end up wishing folks had just given us straight-up cash instead. But let's say you need to pick up something — quick — for someone whose taste is impossible to predict, or who basically has everything There are gift cards people will actually want out there, especially if you're coming down to the wire for a last-minute holiday 2017 gift.

The toughest thing about gift cards is that they're just... you know... fine. It's not a bad thing to get some backup grocery money (if it's to a store you like) or $50 to a nice local restaurant. But a Consumer Reports survey determined that more than 25 percent of gift cards given are never used. People's reasoning for not spending that free money? According to more than half, they said they didn't have time to go to the store or shop online, and according to 35 percent, they couldn't find anything they wanted to buy.

Giving a thoughtfully gifted card can seem super hard, but it's not impossible. Instead of giving someone a card to a nice restaurant / store / etc., where they may never usually do business, think of something that will benefit them individually in a personalized, useful way. Check out our list below for seven unique gift card suggestions.

1. Warby Parker

Burke, $95, Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an eyeglasses retailer that offers folks complete online service and prides itself on inexpensive and well-made prescription glasses. If you've ever known someone with glasses, you'll know we pretty much need a new pair at any given moment. A gift card to Warby Parker makes getting new glasses super easy.

Warby Parker offers hard gift cards and e-cards, both of which can be used to buy glasses online, as well as in their brick-and-mortar locations. Physical gift cards arrive in five days, according to Warby Parker's gift card FAQ, making them a great last-minute gift. They also offer gift card amounts tagged with specific items. For example, a $95 gift card will get your special someone a pair of standard prescription frames or sunglasses, and $175 gets them a pair of prescription sunglasses. This is an excellent card if you're looking to blend practical and personal.

2. Lyft

Lyft only recently rolled out its gift card program, offering physical and digital gift cards perfect for the commuters in your life. While this is definitely something you could get any family member or friend who often uses rideshare services, it's also one of those cards that's great for an office exchange, if you live in a large city where many people commute. Considering that Lyft is now available to 94 percent of Americans, a Lyft gift card is a very practical yet personalized gift card that recipients won't struggle to use.

Lyft gift cards can be purchased on Lyft's website or on Amazon. There's a minimum of $25, but after that, the sky's the limit — and you don't have to gift in round numbers, either.

3. Stockpile

This may sound odd, but gift cards to Stockpile — a service that lets you buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs for as little as $5 — are exactly the kind of thing I wanted as a teenager. To me, the stock market was this mystical thing I only vaguely understood. No one teaches us how to invest anymore, but Stockpile's user interface is friendly, and there's no need to put in tons of money. A gift card can help someone who's curious about the stock market learn how to trade, and can help a teen begin to develop an investment portfolio with little risk.

You can purchase gift cards on Stockpile's website. They offer traditional hard gift cards, e-gift cards, and a print-at-home option. Folks who receive Stockpile cards can pick which companies to invest in, and manage their stocks online. I know it's cliche, but: This really is a gift that keeps giving.

4. Blue Apron

Blue Apron

Blue Apron offers personalized menu plans with fresh food (and wine!!!) delivered directly to your door. Meal services like these can be life-savers for folks who have extenuating circumstances like being ill or caring for an ill person, or who just need a dang break from going grocery shopping. They're perfect for busy single parents, for older family members, and since the meal plans are so flexible and customizable, you don't need to worry that the recipient won't like Blue Apron's offerings or won't be able to use the card.

You can purchase e-gift cards on Blue Apron's site at $60, $120 (which covers six two-person meals), and $240.

5. A Local Cleaning Service

Like a Blue Apron card, a local cleaning service gift card is perfect for someone who's short on time or who may be a little overwhelmed by life right now. Obviously a card like this can be misconstrued as "Hey, your house is filthy, please clean it," so I suggest including a gentle note explaining that you're just trying to be a pal, and honestly, I suggest only giving a card like this if you know someone's got difficult circumstances — or if you know they really want to try out a service.

If you're going to go with this option, be sure your gift card or gift package includes everything (including tip), so your recipient isn't sprung with extra charges, and check the company's reviews, too.

6. TisBest

TisBest allows folks to "shop" online for charities that need donations, making a gift card a good idea for someone who genuinely doesn't want anything for themselves or someone who's charity-minded and prefers to make holidays about giving. TisBest has tons of charities your gift card recipient can choose from, so whether they're passionate about dog shelters or breast cancer research, they'll be able to find a charity that supports what they love.

Hard gift cards, e-gift cards, and printable gift cards are available on TisBest's website with a small $10 minimum and any maximum.

7. Craftsy

Honeycomb Brioche Sweater Knitting Kit, $84–$94, Craftsy

If you've got a recipient who'd rather have something to do than have something, Craftsy is a company that offers a metric ton of diverse crafting classes in disciplines across the board, from expert-level cooking to building a raised-bed garden to knitting the perfect sweater (complete with a kit including all supplies needed). Though prices vary, most classes are fairly cheap, usually costing between $20 and $50, and if you're worried about spending money on something your recipient may not like, don't be. Craftsy will allow them to exchange the class you purchased for an equal-value class of their choice. Unlike other shops on this list, you can't buy a hard gift card with a set amount of money for Craftsy. Instead, you find a class your recipient will like, add it to your cart, and voilà! Also, currently, if you give three classes, you get one free — for a loved one or yourself.

Hopefully this list has given you a solid idea of the sheer range of quirky, personal gift cards available to us. Go forth, gift, and be merry.