Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Face-Value Gift Card

A gift card with the current value on it.
  (+9, -1)(+9, -1)
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An improvement on ICC "chip cards" (the ones with the little chip on the face of them).

Mount a thin electrophoretic display (smart paper) onto the face of a chip card (gift card, phone card, hotel room key). Then hook the display up to the ICs on the card.

Now whenever you use your phone card to call Mommy back home, upon removal of the card, it will conveniently display on the card the remaining balance, or number of minutes left.

Same idea with gift cards, so when you're fishing through your wallet you can go "Oh my, I have $24.95 to spend at MEC!" (or other somesuch amazing store)

This can be applied to hotel key cards, to add that personal touch of "Bob Smith, Room 112" however that does bring up some security issues with lost cards, as currently all room cards are indistinguishable.

swimr, Aug 05 2008

Debit card displays balance Debit_20card_20displays_20balance
[phoenix, Aug 05 2008]

Paper Rewritable Paper_20Rewritable
Use rewritable paper instead of an electrophoretic display [xaviergisz, Aug 06 2008]

[link]






       Bound to happen one day (in one form or other) - limited at the moment by the price of the technology.
Texticle, Aug 05 2008
  

       Cost is no expense, here at the Halfbakery.
normzone, Aug 05 2008
  

       Washington DC Metro farecards already do this; after each use they print another line on the card listing the new balance. Once a card has been used so many times that there's no room left, a replacement card is issued.   

       The biggest problem with such a scheme is that such cards may only be used in places that support such printers. Otherwise, someone whose card says $25.00 may be annoyed if it only holds $8.00 because $17 was spent on e.g. an Internet purchase.   

       That having been said, it might be nice for cards to have a wipe-off area protected by a flap, in which the remaining balance can be handwritten.
supercat, Aug 05 2008
  

       But that is physically printing right? This uses the current card readers, and could (not in all cases) probably be changed over with a software patch.
swimr, Aug 06 2008
  

       First of all, adding a display to the gift card itself is going to add significantly to the cost of the card. Most gift cards, if bought in sufficient quantities, cost almost nothing to manufacture. Putting one of the newfangled displays would add at least $5 to the cost.   

       Further, I'm not familiar with how gift cards work in other countries, but at least in the U.S. nothing is ever actually written to most gift cards after manufacture. Instead, each card simply holds an account number; the actual adjustment of card value takes place in a database, not in the card itself. Thus, even if the card had an electronic display it would have no idea what to show absent some sort of wireless link. And that would require not only new electronics in the card but also changes to the infrastructure.
supercat, Aug 06 2008
  

       I suppose the card could contain the account number inside, and whenever it is used, it just updates the value on the card. That way nobody can scam the store.
swimr, Aug 06 2008
  

       We use Jiffy markers where we work. Just cross it off and write the new value below. The database keeps track of the actual value.
Cedar Park, Aug 08 2008
  

       There could be a website linked to the card value database where the recipient can enter a unique ID prinited in the card, and a phone number. When some of its value is spent, the system sends an SMS message to the giftee (?) informing them of how much value remains.
8th of 7, Aug 09 2008
  

       ^ What would be the point of that? Your phone tells you how much is left when you spend it, instead of the cashier telling you. You still wouldn't be able to tell how much is left later by just looking at the card.
Bukkakinator, Aug 12 2008
  

       This might be nice but only for gift cards with small values. I think anything with a large value, it is nicer if nobody can see it (re: debit card).   

       I can see a major problem, though, were someone would hack the card and sell it to someone. It wouldn't be too hard to change the display, I'm sure. People see visual things as a confirmation of reality, much like misplaced discount tags; if all it really is is a convenient mirror of a secure database value, that is not enough. The number on display would possess real value, especially for the customer with the large lungs and red face.   

       I think the real solution is just to give people cash. It is the best gift card of all.
mylodon, Aug 12 2008
  
      
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