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Gift Cards: FAQ

Gift Cards Issued as a Form of Payment

What is a gift card?

A gift card is a small plastic card, similar to a credit card, with a stored value. The term ‘gift card’ will be used  to mean both the plastic cards and gift certificates.

Can gift cards be issued in lieu of cheques as a form of payment?

Gift cards can be used as a form of payment in certain circumstances.

Why just for certain circumstances?

A VIU cheque is the recommended form of payment. Use of gift cards should only be considered when no other option is viable.

The Canada Revenue Agency considers gift cards to be a cash equivalent.  These cards may represent taxable income to the recipient.  For this reason, all gift card activity must be tracked, and T4As may be issued to recipients.

For instance, students receiving a cumulative total of $500 or more during a calendar year in scholarships, bursaries, awards and prizes from all VIU sources, including amounts issued as gift cards, will be issued a T4A. For this reason, VIU must attach each gift card to a particular recipient in the financial records.

Can employees receive a gift card as payment?

No, gift cards immediately become taxable income when issued to an employee, and must be included on the T4.  All employee remuneration flows through the payroll system only. Gift cards are not captured in the payroll system.

What about non-employees?

Gift cards are often given as honoraria to guest speakers or volunteers as a token of appreciation .The maximum value of a gift card to be issued to a non student is $50.00.

An honorarium is a payment made on a special or non-routine basis to an individual who is not an employee of the University, to recognize or to acknowledge a contribution of gratuitous service (ie. no expectation of payment exists and the honorarium is a token of appreciation). It is not based on an agreed amount between an individual providing services and a University representative seeking services. If payment is agreed upon, this constitutes a contractual agreement and must involve invoicing, taxes and related factors.

T4As may be issued to any non-employee receiving payments for honoraria, including amounts issued as gift cards. SIN information must be requested from the recipient.

Ordering Gift Cards

How do I go about buying gift cards?

All gift cards will be acquired by Purchasing and held centrally by Financial Services.  A gift card requisition form, similar to a cheque requisition form, is now available on the FRS forms page. Allow 10 working days turn-around time. A voucher will be provided to the recipient to redeem the card at the Financial Services office, or at the Administration offices in Cowichan and Powell River.  Gift cards are a form of cash, so they cannot be put in the mail, nor can a third party pick them up. Card(s) will be released to the recipient upon presentation of the gift card voucher and ID. If the cards cannot be picked up by the recipient, please advise Financial Services within 10 days, and a cheque will be substituted.

Please note: Gift cards purchased and claimed on an expense claim or cheque requisition will not be reimbursed; gift cards charged to a PCard will result in the immediate and permanent loss of PCard privileges. The employee will be invoiced for the cost of the gift cards charged to the Pcard.

What type of gift cards are available?

These are the most popular, and a supply will be kept on hand.

  • Amazon
  • iTunes
  • Starbucks
  • Subway
  • Tim Hortons
  • VIU Campus Store


Are other cards available?

Others may be ordered as needed. Purchasing will advise if the card cannot be obtained. For non-routine vendors, timelines to order the cards may be extended.

What about giving gift cards as  a door prizes at athletic or other similar events?

When gift cards are awarded as door prizes at athletic or other similar events, where the selection of the recipient is entirely random, the recipient will receive a voucher at the event for a particular card, and may redeem it in Financial Services during VIU working hours. The vouchers will be signed by a budget holder and will attest to the random nature of the selection of the recipient. The cards will be pre-ordered by the department by way of the gift card requisition, and identified as a door prize where the name of the recipient is not yet available. Financial Services will collect the voucher from the recipient and obtain any necessary information.   If the cards cannot be picked up by the recipient, please advise Financial Services within 10 days, and a cheque will be substituted.  Gift cards are a form of cash, so they cannot be put in the mail, nor can a third party pick them up.

Research Subjects Participating in a Study Approved by the Ethics Office

I am a researcher and I want to be able to give gift cards to research participants in the study. Can I do this? The participants are anonymous.

A separate procedure is being drafted in concert with the Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office and the Research Ethics office.