by Alex Palmer | June 01, 2018
Gift cards are often characterized as falling into one of two categories: single-retailer closed-loop cards aimed at providing a more personal, specific reward; or open-loop Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift cards that give recipients huge selection and flexibility in where the card is spent. With its launch of a new line of curated "Happy Cards," announced today, financial technology company Blackhawk Network is aiming to strike a balance between open- and closed-loop cards -- a happy medium, if you will. 

The 10 different types of cards aim to appeal to different types of recipients with different interests, such as men, women, parents, foodies, and more. The cards, which come in denominations of $20 to $500, are available in both physical and digital form and include no additional fees (unlike many open-loop cards) yet can be redeemed at numerous merchants rather than a single brand (unlike many closed-loop cards). 

For example, the Happy Dining card can be redeemed at The Cheesecake Factory, Red Lobster, Texas de Brazil, and other restaurants; Happy Lady can be spent at Bed Bath & Beyond, The Cheesecake Factory, Sephora, Spafinder, and others; while Happy Guy can be used at AutoZone, Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, Dell, and more.

"It's getting the right card partners together to tell a compelling story on an occasion that you can give," Alex Barseghian, vice president of original content at Blackhawk Network, told Incentive. "Whether you're a corporation incentivizing an employee or [a consumer], cards are usually given around an occasion -- Happy Mother's Day, Happy Valentine's Day, Happy Holidays -- so Happy is the perfect kind of brand that captures what we do as an organization day-to-day."

Barseghian said that in creating the 10 cards, Blackhawk conducted in-depth research, drawing on customer and client feedback in making decisions from which brands to include on the cards to their color and appearance. After testing the response to this series, Blackhawk expects to release another 10 Happy brands in the fall. 

"We have 600 card partners and a lot of them want to participate," said Barseghian. "In the B2B world, these will become very personalized -- for example, if the company is all about being active, we could do a Happy Active card, or a Happy Health and Wellness card - so it becomes stronger based on what the B2B customers tell us they want."

Barseghian emphasized that this was the first time a bundled-brand offering of this type was made available to the industry, and pointed to a few reasons why Blackhawk is able to do it now: the brand's scale and number of partners, the fact that brands are more open to innovation in the segment than they may have been five years ago, and finally that technology has made it easier to strike this balance between open- and closed-loop cards.

"In the past, you couldn't do this since Macy's or Starbucks would have a different point of sale (POS) system," said Barseghian. "We're cutting through that, running it on our rails, and leveraging the open-loop network without the fees associated with that."

For more information, visit HappyCards.com