by James A. Martin

The best holiday gift cards and digital subscriptions for techies

Dec 04, 2015
Consumer ElectronicsInternetMedia and Entertainment Industry

Can't decide what to buy a tech-loving boss, client, colleague or favorite 'brogrammer' this holiday season? These great gift cards and subscriptions are sure to please even the pickiest techie.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Geeky gifts for the technology-obsessed

An unwanted gift says a lot. It can imply that you, the gift giver, (a) don’t really know the recipient, or (b) you’re too busy to shop for a thoughtful gift. It’s a lose-lose situation.

So how about some tech-related gifts for the geeks on your list that let them choose what they want, when and how? The following gift subscriptions and cards (listed in alphabetical order), provide quick and easy access to apps, movies, music, TV episodes, digital magazines, hired help, and even grooming supplies. We selected these specific services based on the assumption that a great gift is something recipients would enjoy, but wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves, as well as how easy each service is to gift in person and from afar.

Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited sure to deliver a smile

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For one year, “giftees” of Amazon Prime ($99 a year) get free two-day shipping within the lower 48 states and, in some cities and for some orders, free same-day delivery. Prime Video is a cool perk, and it provides access to thousands of free movies and TV shows. Some Prime videos can be downloaded to iOS and Android devices, which is ideal for loading up on videos before a long flight, where streaming often isn’t an option. Amazon Kindle Fire tablets have access to the most downloadable videos. Prime subscriptions also include Prime Music and Prime Photos for unlimited photo storage. A Kindle Unlimited gift subscription (starting at $60 for six months) is another option for book lovers.

Give the gift of Apple

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Apple Music gift subscription options unfortunately don’t exist, but you can buy Apple Music Gift Cards in $30 to $120 denominations. Cards can be sent via email, or snail mail, and they can be used for purchases on Apple’s App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, and Mac App Store. Apple iTunes gift cards are also available in denominations of $25 to $100, which can translate into quite a bit of Apple content.

Birchbox, Bespoke Post goodie boxes

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Birchbox is a popular unisex subscription service that gives recipients curated boxes of grooming samples each month. A typical “grooming box” may include shaving cream, cleansers, and other samples, plus a “full-size” product, such as a pair of stylish earbuds. Gift subscriptions for women start at $30, and they last three months, six months or a year. Subscriptions for men are available for three months and six months, starting at $60. Subscription gift cards are also available.

Bespoke Post is a similar, $45-per-month goodie box service geared toward men, and the packages sometimes include tech items. Gift subscriptions start at $55 (for one box) and range up to $540 (for 12 boxes).

Go Google this holiday season

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Google Play gift cards give your favorite Android users access to apps, videos, music and books in the Google Play store. We didn’t find an option for printing gift certificates, but gift cards are available at many popular retailers, including Best Buy, Walgreens, Kroger, CVS, Sam’s Club and Target, in denominations of $10 or more.

You can also gift Google Play Music subscriptions via email. A one-month subscription costs $10; three months goes for $30; and six months costs $60. Google Play Music subscriptions also include access to YouTube Red (in eligible countries), which removes ads from YouTube videos and lets members download videos and playlists for offline use. (YouTube Red alone costs $13 a month, so that’s a good deal.)

Nobody ever re-gifts Hulu Plus gift cards

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Netflix is a great streaming option, but it lags behind Hulu in terms of recently aired TV episodes. If your intended giftees are TV junkies, Hulu Plus gift cards may be the way to go. You can pick them up at Best Buy, Target, GameStop, Walmart, Rite Aid, or Kroger stores, in denominations of $15 to $100. Hulu’s website lets you pick from different sentiments for the cards, such as “The Joy of the Seasons,” and you can email cards or print them for in-person delivery.

Netflix gift subscriptions: Oh what fun it is to stream

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Pop culture mavens will appreciate Netflix gift cards, which provide streaming access to movies and TV shows, as well as Netflix’s growing cache of quirky, award-winning original content, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Netflix gift cards are available at many popular retailers, including Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS, Safeway and Family Dollar, but we didn’t find any way to purchase gift subscriptions online.

Netflix recently upped its prices by $1 a month, to $10 per month for new subscribers of its HD video plan. Standard video costs $8 a month, and Ultra HD (4K) costs $12 per month. A one-month free trial option also exists, and you can cancel and restart subscriptions as needed.

Pandora One gives the gift of music

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Pandora lets users create “radio stations” that play tunes similar to other songs, genres and artists, which you specify. Pandora’s ad-free plan, Pandora One ($5 a month), is well suited for music fans that love to find unfamiliar or new tunes.

Pandora sweetened the pot for gift subscriptions, too. For $54.89, you can gift a full year of ad-free Pandora pleasure, a discount of more than $5 off the $60 you pay for a year, if you pay by the month. Pandora One also lets users skip more tracks and provides “premium quality audio” (website only). You can email and print Pandora gift cards, and they’re also available at Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics and Meijer.

Ditch the ads, download songs with Spotify Premium

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Spotify’s Premium streaming music service ($10 a month) truly rocks, because it eliminates the free plan’s ads. It also lets subscribers download Spotify songs to mobile devices, which helps to reduce data-plan drain when on the go. Though we didn’t find an email gift-certificate delivery option, you can buy Spotify Premium gift cards ($30 for three months) from 7-Eleven,, Best Buy, CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Target and Walmart.

Get the job done with TaskRabbit

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Free time is one of the best gifts you can give, and a TaskRabbit gift card is a great way to help people make some. The app and gig-economy service helps you hire people to take on chores you can’t or don’t want to tackle on your own, whether it’s assembling a new piece of IKEA furniture or cleaning up after a New Year’s Eve party. The gift-card buying process, however, is a bit … involved. You need a TaskRabbit account, and you have to submit a support request. In return, you receive a gift certificate in the form of a PDF you can print or email.

Texture is a digital magazine goldmine

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Texture, formerly NextIssue, is the “Netflix for magazines.” For a monthly fee of either $10 or $15, you get unlimited digital access to magazines (including back issues), for up to five devices per account. Other noteworthy publications include, Architectural Digest, Bloomberg Businessweek, Consumer Reports, ESPN, Macworld, PCWorld and Wired. Unlike the lower-cost plan, the $15-per-month subscription includes weekly magazines, such as Time and Newsweek.

Texture gift subscriptions, which can be printed or emailed, are available for $15 (one month), $35 (three months), $70 (six months), or $130 (12 months).

Travel better with TripIt Pro

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TripIt Pro organizes travel plans and other related information into a single dashboard, and for frequent flyers, it’s well worth the $49-per-year subscription fee. Unlike the free plan, TripIt Pro includes real-time alerts for flight delays, cancellations, and gate changes; an Alternate Flights feature that helps quickly find alternative flights with available seats if a flight is cancelled or delayed; and Flight Refunds, which can save money by letting user know when a previously purchased itinerary drops in price. You can get some of these features in other ways — airlines routinely let you sign up for text message alerts, for instance — but TripIt Pro combines them into one convenient service. You can print and wrap your TripIt Pro gift subscriptions or send them along via email.

Wall Street Journal for iPad a news junkie’s dream gift

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Reading The Wall Street Journal on an iPad doesn’t just save trees; unlike some newspaper apps, The Journal on iPad is an excellent replication of the print edition, and it’s a pleasure to read — especially on a large iPad Pro. The Journal is available on other mobile platforms, but the iOS version on iPad offers the best experience overall. And if you’re a subscriber, you can give up to five people a three-month digital subscription for free. Otherwise, it’s cheaper to gift The Journal via an Apple iTunes gift card; it costs $23 a month via iTunes, and $29 a month through (after a trial of $12 for 12 weeks).

Xbox Games, Windows Store

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Microsoft offers gift cards for Xbox games that range from $5 to $100. You can download the cards, which can then be gifted and used for Xbox or Windows games and other entertainment options. Windows Store gift cards are available for online purchase, for $15, $25, or $50, and they can be emailed to recipients, who can use them to purchase apps, games, music and videos for their Windows devices. You can also create and send digital, personalized gift cards, though as of this writing, no holiday options are available.