Skip to main content
All ArticlesIndustry Insights

Closed Loop vs. Open: choosing the right gift card program for your business

By May 9, 2024No Comments4 min read

Gift cards have become increasingly popular as a way for businesses to boost sales and attract new customers. They offer a convenient and flexible gifting option for consumers while providing businesses with a reliable source of revenue. When implementing a gift card program, one important decision to make is whether to opt for a closed-loop or an open-loop system. Both have their advantages and considerations, and choosing the right one for your business requires careful evaluation. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between closed-loop and open-loop gift card programs and help you determine the best fit for your business.

Closed-Loop Gift Card Program

A closed-loop gift card program is one that operates within a specific business or group of affiliated businesses. These gift cards can typically be redeemed only at the issuing business or within the defined network. Closed-loop cards are commonly offered by retailers, restaurants, and other businesses with a strong brand presence. Here are some key features and benefits of a closed-loop gift card program:

  1. Brand Loyalty: Closed-loop gift cards encourage customers to revisit your business, fostering brand loyalty. They provide a means for customers to make repeat purchases, leading to increased sales and potentially higher customer lifetime value.
  2. Customization: With closed-loop gift cards, you have full control over the design, branding, and messaging of the cards. This allows you to align the gift card program with your overall brand image and marketing strategy.
  3. Integration: Implementing a closed-loop system is often easier and more straightforward, especially if you already have an existing point-of-sale (POS) system. Integration with your current infrastructure is typically smoother, requiring minimal changes to your operations.
  4. Reduced Fraud Risk: Since closed-loop gift cards can only be used within the designated network, the risk of fraud is lower compared to open-loop cards, which are typically backed by major payment networks. This can provide added security and peace of mind for both you and your customers.

Open-Loop Gift Card Program

An open-loop gift card program involves partnering with a major payment network, such as Visa or Mastercard, to issue gift cards that can be used at any merchant that accepts those payment networks. Open-loop cards function similarly to debit or credit cards, and they offer a broader range of spending options for the cardholders. Here are some key features and benefits of an open-loop gift card program:

  1. Versatility and Convenience: Open-loop gift cards provide recipients with the flexibility to choose where they want to redeem the card. They can use the gift card at various merchants, both online and offline, making it more convenient for the recipient.
  2. Wider Reach: By partnering with a major payment network, your business gains exposure to a larger customer base. Open-loop gift cards can attract new customers who may not have otherwise discovered your business, thereby potentially increasing your customer acquisition.
  3. Gift Card Network: Being part of a broader gift card network can help promote your business and increase visibility. Customers may come across your brand when searching for gift card options or browsing gift card marketplaces.
  4. Potential Revenue Streams: Open-loop gift card programs often come with additional revenue streams. Merchants may receive a percentage of the transaction value or other fees when their gift cards are used at other businesses within the payment network.

Choosing the Right Gift Card Program

When deciding between closed-loop and open-loop gift card programs, consider the following factors:

  1. Business Type and Goals: Evaluate your business type, industry, and long-term goals. Closed-loop cards are ideal for businesses with a strong brand presence and a desire to build customer loyalty. Open-loop cards are more suitable for businesses looking to expand their reach and attract new customers.
  2. Customer Preferences: Consider your target audience and their preferences. Do they prefer the convenience and flexibility of open-loop cards or the exclusivity and brand loyalty associated with closed-loop cards?
  3. Integration and Cost: Assess the ease of integration with your current POS system and the associated costs. Closed-loop systems generally have lower implementation costs and require less infrastructure modification.
  4. Legal and Regulatory Considerations: Understand the legal and regulatory requirements associated with each gift card program, including applicable fees, expiration dates, and reporting obligations.
  5. Marketing and Branding Strategy: Consider how the gift card program aligns with your marketing and branding strategy. Closed-loop cards offer greater customization options, allowing you to reinforce your brand identity, while open-loop cards provide exposure to a wider audience.

In conclusion, the decision between a closed-loop and open-loop gift card program depends on various factors such as your business type, goals, customer preferences, integration capabilities, and marketing strategy. Careful consideration of these factors will help you choose the right program that maximizes customer satisfaction, boosts sales, and aligns with your overall business objectives.

Tru offers unique loyalty & rewards program, with unmatched data tracking, customization and reporting. Contact our award-winning team if you would like more information on implementing your own program.