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These gift cards are perfect for the holidays: Apple, PlayStation, Netflix and more

Save yourself the anguish of trying to devise and get your hands on the perfect present -- the gift of money in the firm of a gift card lets your friend or loved one pick exactly what they want.

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

Gift cards get a bad rap. While some people tend to think of them as an uncreative, last-minute gift, to me, gift cards are there for freedom. That's the freedom to select the item that your recipient really wants, not what you think they might like, especially if you're not completely tuned into their style or tastes. A gift card also saves the embarrassment and hassle of having to return or exchange an item. The only thing you need to do as the gift giver is know what kind of brand or stores your giftee likes -- the rest is easy.

This year, gift cards may also serve another purpose: speed. With the global chip shortage still a byproduct of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, shipping delays on everything from electronics to toys and furniture means you run the risk of a tangible gift getting stuck in the mail or massively delayed. The US Postal Service also faces holiday delays.

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Not all gift cards are created equally. We focus on the best of the best.

Logan Moy/CNET

If you're on a tight budget, the flexible scale of a gift card means you don't have to spend a lot of money for it to be useful. We'll take you through some top options, but if you don't have it already, one gift card I suggest you look into for the whole family is a Disney Plus subscription -- it has just about everything you grew up with and the latest Disney exclusive content including The Mandalorian. (If you need more ideas, also check out our other gift guides that fit a wider variety of tastes.)

Let's dive head first into gift cards ideas for everyone on your holiday list!

Apple

There are a number of Apple products that make great gifts like the new iPad, iPad Mini or the Apple Watch. But it's easier to give an Apple gift card so someone can choose a gift for themselves, or even an accessory for tech they already have. You can get a number of cool designs on this Apple gift card and prices range from $25 to $100, or any amount in between.

Amazon is the one stop shop for just about anything online -- from toys to tech and designer clothing, you can get it all. Amazon's gift cards are available from $1 to $2,000. Design-wise, you can make your gift card snazzy by getting it animated or with your photo or video on it. If that isn't your style, standard gift card layouts are available as well.

Disney/Screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

This gift card is specifically for the folks who want access to the Disney universe: Disney classics, The Simpsons, Star Wars, Marvel and more. Disney Plus costs $8 a month or $80 for the year. Disney has just about everything for the whole family, so it's a great year-round gift. And of course, if you're looking for something a bit more educational, you can catch up on National Geographic as well.

Read our Disney Plus review.

 

Amazon

The Cheesecake Factory has so many menu items, it'll make your head spin. That's good news for a family of picky eaters or those with a wide variety of tastes. And did we mention the iconic cheesecakes, from tart key lime to ooey gooey caramel? Starting at $25 you can get a beautifully designed card. Gifts top out at $250. If for nothing else, use this gift card to get yourself a slice of cheesecake for the holidays -- or an entire pie. We won't tell.

Netflix

Netflix is one of the juggernauts of streaming content, with plans starting from $9 to $18 dollars a month. If you have a standard Netflix account, upgrading to the HD streaming option could be a great gift. Or, if your family shares an account, the gift of a separate account for family members could come as a welcome gift. Netflix gift cards come in increments of $25, or you can enter your own amount. The design of Netflix gift cards are pretty simple -- it's just its logo, but it doesn't need to be flashy when the content is the focus.

Amazon

This gift card is for all of the gamers out there who just need a little money to help pay for expensive games. Getting a gift card like this is the difference between purchasing one game and potentially two or more. You can get PlayStation Plus gift cards for online multiplayer and monthly games based on how long you want to pay for the membership (1, 3 or 12 months) or simply get a PlayStation store card for $10 all the way up to $100.

Amazon

There's nothing like getting a gift card for personal care products. Typically, this works best for people who already know what kind of styling products, hand lotion or makeup they like, so the shopping can be done all online. However, this gift card also works for folks who want to go in store and look around for discounts and designer makeup as well. You can buy the Ulta gift card for $25, $50, $100 or $250 on the website -- or you can name your own amount.

Target

Target is a treasure trove of home goods and so much more. There's a reason why people joke that they walk into Target with a list and leave with more than they expected. This store is just that good at enticing people to buy. This gift card starts at $5, but you can add up to $500 total, for example, if you're giving a gift for an entire family.

Amazon

What do you get for the gamer in your home who's always on Twitch? One you can do is provide them with this gift card ranging from $15 to $200, and they'll be able to redeem it for Bits or subs to support a streamer of their choice. It also unlocks special benefits to subscribers as well.

This article was first published last year. It has been updated with the latest gift cards and deals. 

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