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Last-minute shopping: 10 great gift cards for geeks

There are few times in life when it is easier to lose faith in your fellow man than while shopping for the holidays.

The pushing, the shoving, the profanity. The panic-stricken faces of last minute gift-gatherers running willy-nilly, searching store shelves for a perfect gift that they'll mostly never find – it's an ugly process that too few of us enjoy, or have the patience and time for. This goes double when you're shopping for a tech-savvy friend or loved one. Often, they already have all of the gadgets they want, and what they don't have but want likely costs more than most of us are able to afford at this time of year. What's more, many of the hottest tech gifts of the year are becoming increasingly difficult to find as supplies run low.

Fortunately, there's an ocean of gift cards out there to choose from that'll help you give tech enthusiasts a happy holiday. You could get away with simply getting them gift cards to spend on anything they please at stores like Best Buy, The Source or Future Shop, or even just a lump of cold hard cash, but where's the fun in that? With a little bit of thought (and the help of this guide,) you'll end up coming out of the Christmas rush looking like a champ.


Apple iTunes Card

Tablets are the go-to device for a growing number of people looking for a portable way to stay productive, in touch and goof off. If you know someone who wants one, be sure to check out my guides to the best tablets and best smartphones for this holiday season. And if the people you’re shopping for already have one? More likely than not, they need to buy software and media for it.

Available in $25, $50 and $100 denominations, an iTunes gift card will be a welcomed gift for anyone that owns an iOS device such as an iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPhone 5s or even an iPod touch (because really, it’s really just a tiny tablet.) The balance of an iTunes gift card can be used to purchase anything sold via the iTunes Store including music, movies, television shows, magazines via the iOS Newsstand app, books through Apple’s iBook Store, and a staggering number of tablet and smartphone based applications and games. These iTunes gift cards can be found just about anywhere these days, but a sure bet is to check your local Apple Store.


Google Play Store gift card

While not as easy to find as Apple’s omnipresent iTunes cards, the growing popularity of Android-based tablets has led to a growing number of locations where you can find Google’s Google Play gift cards. Over the past few weeks I’ve spotted them at Target, Walmart, 7-11, Future Shop and Electronics Boutique. Currently, the cards are available in $15, $25 and $50 denominations. The balance of these cards can be put towards purchases from – you guessed it – the Google Play Store, which comes pre-installed on all current Android devices. As with the iTunes App Store, the Google Play store offers a wide variety of applications, games, movies, books and most recently, magazines for Android users to download and enjoy. While the amount of content available via the Google Play Store doesn’t yet hold a candle to what Apple has on offer, a gift card to use with the service will be a welcome site to anyone with an Android device.

Henry’s Photography Gift Cards

As the cameras in our smartphones have become advanced enough to satisfy most people’s photographic needs, a large number enthusiasts prefer using a dedicated camera to capture life’s little moments. And as crazy as it may seem, not everyone who enjoys taking pictures owns a smartphone. Fortunately, both groups have a great, Canadian-based option available to them.
You can walk into any big-box store and buy a camera, but I prefer to buy my gear from a place dedicated to photography, photos and the people that take them. By doing so, you’ll have access to the same amount of top-drawer old DSLR, point-and-shoot, mirrorless cameras and accessories as you do in stores like Future Shop, only they’re sold by more-knowledgeable and passionate staff that eat and breathe photography all day. With locations across Canada, and an excellent online shop, Henry’s is your best bet. As luck would have it, they offer gift cards with denominations ranging from $50 to $500 that can be redeemed in any of their stores or online.
Oh, and if you’re still shooting on film, need studio gear, or even used hardware, Henry’s has you covered there too.

Mac or PC: One Year Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Subscription

While a lot of experts will try to tell you that we’re now living in a post-personal computer world, you wouldn’t know it by walking into most homes or businesses: even with tablet sales on the rise, Macs and Windows-based PCs are everywhere. If you’re shopping for someone that refuses to give up their keyboard, consider picking up Microsoft’s ubiquitous suite of productivity tools for Windows-based PC owners.
It comes in a box, but the only thing inside is a serial number, so I say it still counts as a gift card. While it might not be the most exciting thing to find under the tree this year, it’s hard to argue with the value or utility. A $100 one year subscription to Office 365 Home Premium Edition will provide up to five computer users in your home with access to Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher and Access for use on their PCs, as well as online access to Microsoft’s browser-based versions of its productivity apps. Additionally, subscribers will receive 20 GB of free storage space to use in Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service – a nice touch. While the subscription is available to Apple computer users as well, it might not be as attractive a gift for them, unless they’re die-hard Office fans, or need to use Microsoft’s productivity suite for work or school: Apple’s own iWork suite of productivity tools can be purchased for substantially less money via the Mac App Store or, if you’re planning on buying a new Mac moving forward, can be had for free as part of your next Apple computer purchase.
Your best bet to find a Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Subscription is your local computer shop, a Windows Store (if you can find one) or a big box store like Future Shop or Best Buy.

Mac Computers: iTunes Gift Cards

Fun Fact: those iTunes gift cards you’ve been using to buy music, movies, and iPhone apps with? They can also be used in the Mac App Store.
Available to Apple computer owners using version 10.6.6 or later of Apple’s OS X operating system, the Mac App Store is a one-stop software shop for games, productivity and educational software to run on a MacBook, iMac or Mac Pro computer. The Mac App Store’s selection of software is constantly growing, so there’s bound to be something enjoyable or useful to the recipient of a iTunes Gift Card in there somewhere. Additionally, once the gift card has been used by its recipient, the software is bound to their Apple ID, making it possible to download it to their current Mac, or any future Apple computer they might own, any time they please.
iTunes gift cards are available in multiple denominations and, much like the hardware they’re meant to compliment, can be found just about anywhere: Apple Stores, convenience stores, shopping malls, you name it.

Gamers: Sony PlayStation Store Cash Cards

If you’re at a loss for what to purchase for the PlayStation devotee in your life, consider picking up a $20 or $50 PlayStation Store Gift Card. The balance of the card can be used to purchase games, game add-ons, movies and television content for use on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 hardware.

Gamers: PlayStation Plus

Another, and perhaps more attractive alternative to gifting a PlayStation Store Cash Card, is to buy them a one-year membership to PlayStation Plus: one of the best deals in the gaming world today. This $50 card is a gateway to a number of great perks any gamer would love, including a rotating selection of free top-selling games to download to their PlayStation console, online multiplayer gameplay for PlayStation 4 owners and deep discounts on a wide range of games. Best of all, a single Playstation Plus membership can be enjoyed on any compatible PlayStation device owned by a member – so if you own a PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation Vita, for example, you find free games and discounts available for use on both pieces of hardware. That’s a win.

Gamers: Microsoft Xbox Live Gold Membership Card

A lot of people will be hoping to find a gaming console under a tree this month, and a whole lot of people already have one. Not sure which game to buy for the twitchy thumb-stick warrior in your life? I’ve got a few suggestions for you. To start, what better way to say you care than buying the Xbox gamer in your life the means to ignore the outside world for the next 12 months? A $25 three month or $60 one year Xbox Live Gold Membership provides Xbox One and Xbox 360 with access to unlimited online multiplayer gaming, the ability to chat/video chat with other Gold membership holders, pick and choose players they want to play with online again in the future or ignore and, if they’ve already got a Netflix membership, even stream video content to watch through their Xbox console. Perhaps most importantly, Gold members can enjoy free game downloads, props to pimp out their Xbox avatars with and deals on popular games and other content.
Xbox Live cards are sold everywhere that the game systems themselves are sold, so finding one should be a piece of cake.
And one important update: Up until recently, picking up a card chockfull of Microsoft points to spend on online content was an option as well, but in a move to make online purchases a little more streamlined, Microsoft did away with the cryptic points system that gamers had endured for years, replacing it this past summer a saner, easy to understand purchase system that uses Xbox owner’s local currency via PayPal or credit card to purchase games and other content for use on the console instead.

Gamers: Nintendo eShop Cards

Available in denominations of $10, 20, $35 and $50, Nintendo eShop Cards are a welcome sight to anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Wii U game console. Armed with an eShop Card, gamers can download the latest hit games directly to their console, or indulge in the ever growing library of classic Nintendo content from the past few decades of the company’s history, making the combination of a modern Nintendo console and an eShop Card a great gift for anyone who enjoys retro games, even if they no longer own the old-school hardware.

PC Gamers: World of Warcraft 60-Day Subscription Card

Look, I know it’s not the only Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game game out there, but having been around since 2004, having spawned multiple expansion packs (with another on the way) and a subscriber base that numbers in the millions, there’s a good chance that if you own a computer and enjoy using it to play games, even casually, you’ll have heard of, and will find something to enjoy in World of Warcraft. After creating a character, players are thrust into the adventure, intrigue and oft-times general goofiness of the mystic world of Azeroth: a realm in the grip of a never-ending war between two opposing factions, and populated by humans, orks, gnomes, space aliens, werewolves and other standard fantasy fodder. Players can choose to play with others or go it alone as they hack, slash, shoot and craft their way through the game’s expansive world and story line.
A 60-day subscription to the game offers players two months worth of online gameplay. In order to take advantage of the subscription card, the person you’re gifting it to will have to have an active Internet connection and own World of Warcraft. If they have even a passing interest in computer gaming, there’s a very good chance that they already have both of these bases covered.
You can pick one of these bad boys up at big box stores like Future Shop, Best Buy, Walmart and game retailers like Electronics Boutique. With around seven million subscribers, even after close to nine years of being online, there’s got to be something to it, right?

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