Shipping items during the holiday season is hardly predictable. If you didn’t get your orders in early, you might be dealing with late shipments or items being out of stock. But why deal with all that? After all, there are plenty of useful or entertaining gifts you can purchase for your friends and family that are entirely digital—no shipping or hassle required.
Update, 12/19/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links.
This is a pretty obvious one, but when it comes to remote gifts, a gift card is one of your best options. Most stores offer these in both digital and physical formats, but sites like Amazon and Walmart are definitely the safer bets since they sell pretty much everything. There are also Visa gift cards, which can be used anywhere regular Visa cards are accepted.
There’s a seemingly endless amount of content available between the various streaming services, and they all want to make it as easy as possible for you to gift subscriptions to people you know. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, YouTube Premium, Disney+, Spotify, or Audible, all you need to do is purchase one of their digital gift cards, and you’re all set to gift however much you want.
Netflix is the safest bet for most people—no one matches it for content variety alongside original shows and movies. Hulu is also a great general choice, with services like Disney+ offering much more focused libraries. YouTube Premium is a good option if you know some frequent YouTube viewers, as it removes ads, allows you to download videos to view offline, and grants access to YouTube Music Premium.
Spotify and Audible are different from the rest of the pack, both focusing on audio content. Although it’s pretty easy to figure out which you should get, just ask yourself: “Would the person I’m shopping for prefer tons of audiobooks or tons of music?” If it’s the former, Audible is the route to go down, with Spotify being a fantastic gift for music lovers (and both offer podcasts).
When purchasing most modern titles from websites (like Amazon), you should see the option to purchase a digital copy of that game. You’ll receive a code, which can then be input into the respective platform’s storefront to be redeemed, and you’re done. It’s a simple way to gift games without needlessly picking up a physical copy.
However, if you’re shopping for someone who uses an Xbox or Steam specifically, you can gift games through those platforms. All you need to do is have the person you’re shopping for added as a friend, go to purchase the game, and then choose the “gift” option. Steam even allows you to include a short message with your gift.
All three major console manufacturers—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—have come up with subscription services for their systems. One common similarity between all of these is online play—you can’t play games over the internet on these consoles without these subscriptions. That’s the main thing that pushes people towards these subscriptions, but each has its own unique features.
Both Nintendo’s and Sony’s are pretty straightforward. You can purchase gift card codes for either—it’s as simple as that. And if the person already has an active subscription to the service, these cards will stack to add more time.
Nintendo Switch Online mainly offers classic NES and SNES games, with online multiplayer as a reward for subscribers, while Sony has monthly free titles (such as Knockout City or The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners) and a collection of PS4 games available for subscribers with a PS5. But at the end of the day, both are mainly focused on opening the doors of online play to members.
Xbox Live Gold operates under a similar system: There’s only one tier to purchase, and getting a gift card for it just adds credit to the user’s current subscription. However, one thing you should be aware of is the Xbox Game Pass—Microsoft’s subscription service that allows users to access a library of about 100 games for a monthly fee.
If you purchase Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you’ll be gifting access to both Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold at the same time. Of course, Game Pass Ultimate is more expensive than straight-up Xbox Live Gold, but it’s a much better deal given the vast catalog of included games.
Amazon Prime is a wide-reaching subscription that offers a lot more than you may be aware of. The main benefits are definitely the free two-day shipping for various products, access to the Amazon Prime Video streaming service, and the various sales that are exclusive to Prime members. If the person you’re shopping for does a decent amount of online shopping, the fast shipping will be enough to justify the subscription alone—the other stuff is just a nice bonus to have and makes Prime a very useful gift overall.
Amazon Prime Gift Subscription
Amazon’s subscription that grants access to faster shipping and loads of extra programs.