As long as you have some money in your bank account and a smartphone, you can send an instant gift to anyone with an email address. Square, best known for its mobile wallet app, today (Dec. 10) added a gift feature that lets you send gift certificates to anyone over email.
The Square mobile payment system is supposed to make it easier to pay for things at local stores. Today's addition means that you don't have to leave home to buy local gifts. Rather, you can search lists of participating stores near your friends and family and then buy gift certificates for them.
One drawback is that it's a relatively new service, and few stores have signed up (merchants must pay a 2.75 percent fee on all transactions), so you may not find their favorites. You'll likely find a lot of independent coffee shops, comic book stores and small cafes, though. To date, Starbucks is the only national participant.
Here's how it works
To get started, download Square Wallet to an iOS or Android device and set up an account. Square Wallet links to your bank debit or credit card. By default, the app shows a listing of nearby participating stores based on your phone's GPS location.
If you want to buy a gift for someone out of town, tap search and then the arrow next to "Current Location" and type in a different address or city. Choose a store and then tap "Send Gift Card." Here, you can choose the amount you'd like to spend (up to $1,000) and when you would like to have your gift sent.
The recipient will get an email that contains a scannable QR code to redeem the gift. In one of the gifting app's best features, the recipient doesn't need a Square Wallet account. The gift card can be opened on an iPhone in the Passbook app or it can be saved to a computer and printed out, much like you would with an airline boarding pass. The store will scan the paper when presented for payment.