gift certificates offers discounted restaurant gift certificates.  A typical deal might be a $25 gift certificates for $10.  My wife and I have purchased discounted restaurant gift certificates from before and have not had problems.  But, according to a recent ABC News story, some people using these certificates are having problems, and it seems that many of them are related to misunderstandings, so it is important to understand how these work before you buy.

The first thing to be aware of is that gift certificates offered only in paper form are immune to the new Federal Reserve gift card rules, and thus can carry expiration dates and fees where gift cards are strictly limited. says that the restaurant gift certificates they issue do not have expiration dates, so this shouldn’t be a problem with but is just something to be aware of in general.

The gift certificates do have some restaurant specific limitations:

  • Restaurants may not accept gift certificates on weekends or may accept them for certain meals only (i.e. dinner only).
  • In some cases the gift certificates can’t be applied to alcohol purchases, tax, or tips.
  • Most restaurants have minimum purchase rules, meaning that you must often purchase a minimum amount when using the gift certificate. says that the average minimum amount is $35 but some do have a higher minimum amount.

None of these are show stoppers in my opinion but if you aren’t aware of them, you might be disappointed.

Specific terms for any individual restaurant are available both before and after you buy, so be sure and look for them.  One place you can find them is “specific restrictions” link, where you have to agree to the terms and conditions, during the checkout process.  The specific restrictions are also listed when you print out the gift certificate and on the certificate itself.

The ABC News article claims that if a restaurant goes out of business you are left holding a worthless piece of paper, but according to a spokesperson, they will replace your gift certificate with one from another restaurant of your choice if this happens. also clarified that in the particular case highlighted by the ABC News article, the restaurant changed the terms (refused to accept gift certificates on Friday nights) without informing them and that the customer did not try and follow up with  If they had, would have provided them with a replacement gift certificate for another restaurant.

These gift certificates can be a great deal, just be sure to be aware of any restrictions so your expectations are realistic.