Facebook introduces Cards, a universal gift card you can send anyone

This morning, Facebook is rolling out Cards, a new kind of Gift product.

Cards are like regular, plastic gift cards, except that they work at a wide range of retailers. (For the initial rollout, the partners Facebook is naming are Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Target. Company reps were tight-lipped on what partners may or may not be signing up for Cards in the near future.)

And when you’ve used up the value of the gift card, don’t throw out the plastic; the next time anyone sends you a Facebook Card, that gift’s value will be added automatically to your existing gift card. You can check the balance at any time from any Facebook app or site, and the network will send you a mobile notification when your balance is running low.

It’s like Facebook is getting into the land of prepaid credit cards via Gifts. It’s all very interesting stuff.

Here’s a sneak peek:

U.S. Facebook users will be first to get the shiny, new toy; rollout is starting now and should be complete in the next few days.

More deets from the Facebook press release:

First, select a gift for your friend from Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, or Target in the Gift Cards & Digital category.

Next, choose the value you would like to send. Your friend will be notified about your gift instantly and will receive a Facebook Card in the mail a few days later. As soon as it arrives, they can use the card at the store you’ve chosen for the amount you have gifted.

…Your card can hold multiple gift balances, and each balance is dedicated to the specific retailer associated with the gift. For example, you might have a gift of $100 at Sephora, $75 at Target, $50 at Olive Garden, and $8.25 at Jamba Juice.

Facebook first launched Gifts in the final months of 2012. By trafficking money and goods between users around the globe — and taking a small cut of each transaction — Facebook has the potential to build Gifts into a huge part of its business eventually.

“Gifting is a very unique form of e-commerce, and we thought there was a lot more innovation that could be going on there,” said Gifts creator Lee Linden in a recent VentureBeat interview. While he couldn’t get specific about how much Facebook takes in the transactions, he did say, “We’re starting with the U.S., and we’ll evaluate in the future what makes sense,” indicating that the company does plan to go global with the new e-commerce product.

“I think these can be big opportunities for us in the long term,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a call yesterday, “but for the next year at least, our work around ads will have by far the biggest impact on our business.”


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