Employees love rewards, but a good gift card incentive program can push your brand to new heights, too.

Gift Card Incentive Programs: 6 Tips to Create a Popular Staff Rewards System 

Justin Calderon

Justin Calderon

6 min

You want to launch a brand new gift card incentive program for your employees. You want it to boost productivity and build morale. 

But you’re not sure how to get going.

Where do you start?

Good question. Crafting a successful gift card rewards program can bring many doubts with it, which may leave you feeling:

  • Unsure about how gift card incentive programs work or how effective they can be
  • Uncertain about how to run a quality gift card loyalty program that brings the best out of employees
  • Worried about integrating such an incentive system into day-to-day operations.

Yet getting it right is well worth the effort. Gift card programs that incentivize employees are superb motivational tools in the workplace, driving up morale among staff who feel more valued as a result.

91.7% of workers feel valued by their employer when there’s a recognition program in place, compared to 69.75 of those without one, according to research by employee recognition software provider Nectar.


Gift cards, or prepaid cards, are an excellent way of handing out these incentives. Versatile and convenient, they allow you to quickly give out perks for exceptional performance, which in turn drives employee engagement and retention.

It’s possible to launch and run a successful gift card incentive program today if you know which strategies yield the best results. 

Keep reading to find out how.

Want to see how a gift card incentive program can have an impact on your business? Sign up for Reloadly and learn more about how our gift card API and plugin integration can boost employee satisfaction.

What is a gift card program?

A gift card program is a structured initiative designed to motivate and reward employees, customers, or partners, using gift cards as incentives. 

These programs are crafted to enhance engagement, boost productivity, or recognize achievements. They can also increase brand awareness via public praise from participants or even make the news for offering special experiences to their staff.

Gift card programs involve the distribution of prepaid debit cards, either as egift cards or physical gift cards, which recipients can redeem at various retailers or for specific goods and services. 

They provide a flexible and appreciated form of recognition, be it for hard work,  customer loyalty, or even as a way to boost survey response rates. Managers can easily align them with organizational goals and use them to enhance morale among its participants.

Despite these benefits, it’s easy for a gift card program to fall flat due to mismanagement and inadequate rewards. 

The most popular gift card programs tend to follow a set method to maximize the chances of success for both the workforce and company.

6 tips on how to run a gift card incentive program at your company (and dodge common mistakes)

Every business is different, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach for setting up a gift card incentive program. 

You’ll need to take into account the type of company culture you have, which employee gifts are likely to make the most impact, and whether the pricing of the program fits into your budget. 

There are certain guidelines that any business can follow, however. With expert insight, we can delve into what makes an employee rewards program tick, and how you can avoid common pitfalls.

1. Clearly communicate the qualifying criteria 

To play the game, your staff must know the rules.

Make sure you clearly communicate what people need to do to earn employee rewards. This could be as simple as pinning up the rules on a communal noticeboard in brightly colored post-it notes, or via email for remote workers. 

You could even set up a dedicated internal website where users can check the rules and keep track of their progress. 

For referral-based incentives, for example, you’ll need to offer clear figures that your staff needs to aim for to receive their rewards, such as referring five new customers to the business.

The bottom line is that everyone is on the same page. The last thing you want is to create tension among workers who feel cheated out of their prize.

2. Automation is here – use it!

Automation is transforming how we do things, but you may not have associated it with employee incentives just yet. 

Automated gift card features now take a lot of the hassle out of managing programs. Many companies use software with built-in triggers that hand out gift cards automatically once employees have hit a certain target or milestone. This saves valuable time and cost that you would have to put into a manual system.

You can customize these triggers to fit your aims: maybe you’d like to reward top sales team performers, celebrate work anniversaries, or recognize outstanding teamwork, for example.

It’s also easier to scale up the program with automated features as it can handle more capacity should you get more team members involved or expand your program. 

The chances of costly errors are slashed, too: a smart trigger is much less likely to hand out the wrong reward than a human.

3. Don’t keep employees waiting for their rewards

A surefire way to lose a worker’s goodwill for your program is to keep them waiting for their perks.

Rewarding top-performing employees with instant incentives shows that you take their efforts seriously. It also increases motivation.

Tarek Nada, Product Director at digital gift card API provider Reloadly, believes this to be a key driver in a successful rewards system.

“Timely reward distribution can boost the effectiveness of incentive programs by providing instant gratification.” he says. “For instance, in a sales contest, the top-performing salesperson can receive their gift card immediately upon winning, increasing motivation and engagement”.

gift card incentive programs Tarek Nada reloadly

Automation, as outlined above, plays a key part in real-time rewards delivery. “Endpoints available under the hood of the Gift Cards API can help you automate this function”, says Tarek. 

4. Don’t skimp on the rewards: Offer an extensive gift card catalog including multiple top brands

Did you know that over half of employee gift cards are worth $50 or less?

Recent research from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), an educational initiative, found that companies tend to try and keep rewards low, which often doesn’t sit well with staff who have put lots of effort into earning them.

                                           Source: IRF

Instead, a key motivator is allowing participants to choose the gifts they want. You may not want the monetary value to get too high, but you can mitigate this by offering them a wide range of retailers who have desirable products. 

A set of Apple air pods worth $150, for example, might be worth much more than $150 Amazon or Starbucks credit to a worker who loves listening to music on their commute. 

Access to an extensive catalog of retailers lets you tailor your program to your staff, offering them customized rewards to suit their tastes. 

5. Make sure you can easily integrate it into your day-to-day operations

Old-school sales incentive programs were often cumbersome and difficult to fit into daily activities. They required manual handling and a lot of paperwork, often causing delays in delivering rewards to deserving employees

Digital gift cards make this a thing of the past. Using a gift card API, they require no extensive development efforts and fit seamlessly into your existing workflows. 

Once you have such a system in place, you can quickly launch a gift card-based incentive program with little hassle. Your workforce then gets to experience the perks of the program without unnecessary delays or complications.

6.  Collect data and analyze the results

After running your gift card incentive program for a while, it’s important to dig into the data. 

The best programs provide valuable reporting and analytics, giving you a detailed look at how well your program is doing.

Take a close look at the numbers and patterns that these metrics give you. Are there trends emerging? Are certain incentives more popular than others? 

Use these insights to make your program even better. You might discover that adjusting the program parameters, tweaking pricing, or offering different incentives can boost its effectiveness.

By collecting and analyzing this data, you’re turning your program into a learning experience. It’s not just about rewards; it’s about understanding what works best for your team and making informed decisions to create an incentive program that truly excels.

300+ brands, endless possibilities: How Reloadly’s Gift Card Incentive Program transforms employee performance

Launching a successful gift card incentive program hinges on choosing the right tools. A complex setup can ground the project before it takes off. 

Reloadly’s gift card API is designed to make your rewards program launch seamless. Via a developer-friendly integration process, you can have your very own incentive project within minutes. 

Via our online portal, you’ll be able to design customized Visa-branded gift cards, add credit, and send them out to employees with just a few clicks. 

Your top performers will get the chance to spend their rewards at over 300 top brands, including Starbucks, Apple, and Amazon. It’s their choice.

You’ll also get access to valuable data-based reports and analytics, including the program performance stats and trends that will help you optimize your incentive strategy.

Reloadly’s Gift Card Incentive Program is not merely a tool; it’s the launchpad to new heights of employee motivation. Offer them exclusive rewards and watch engagement and productivity skyrocket.

[Are you ready to see how a gift card incentive program can increase engagement and revenue? Sign up for Reloadly or contact us to learn more about how our digital gift card API lets you transfer gift cards all over the world.]

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