by Kate Mulcrone | January 14, 2013
 Virtual gift cards have been all the rage for the past few years, but that doesn’t mean that traditional cards are passé. However, for gift card recipients, the difference between pixel and plastic is almost negligible since they can download smartphone apps to add their plastic cards to virtual wallets. Here are two great apps field-tested by the Incentive staff.

Tango Card  (iPad/iPhone/Android)

Tango Card, the app from the Seattle-based company of the same name, was the first app to offer recipients the ability to add plastic cards to mobile devices for easy access in stores. The startup has received sizable cash infusions from both Google executive Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Western Technology Investment, a prestigious venture capital firm. The app can store cards from hundreds of providers, including 1-800-FLOWERS, Home Depot, Nike, Target, and the company’s own Tango Card, a chameleon-like gift card that can be redeemed at any merchant in the company’s network. App users do have to create Tango Card accounts before they can upload their plastic cards, but the process is relatively painless. Clicking the app’s “+” sign calls up a searchable list of card providers. An end-user simply enters his card numbers, PINs, and card values. 
The app also lets the user monitor the balances of all cards in her virtual wallet and send gift cards to anyone in her mobile device’s contacts list.

Gyft (iPhone/Android)
Gyft, a free app available for both iPhones and Android smartphones, is the new kid on the block. San Francisco-based Gyft launched its eponymous app last September with backing from Silicon Valley VIPs Google Ventures, Founder Collective, and 500 Startups. The app’s simple interface is the backbone for a basic but crucial function — storing plastic cards on mobile devices for seamless use in-store. Gyft offers effortless one-step registration via Facebook, Google, or Twitter and has a searchable catalog of card providers. More than 200 retailers work with Gyft, from Amazon to Zappos, not to mention brands like Bass Pro Shops, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, and Starbucks. Users simply select the brand of a gift card and then enter the card number to add it for in-store use. The app also lets users send gift cards to recipients via Facebook, email, or Twitter — quite a handy feature for program managers.