What’s the right gift card amount for your child’s teacher?

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Teachers are some of the most important people in our children’s lives.

They work so hard to develop our kids’ minds, so it’s natural that we want to show our appreciation at Christmas time or the end of the school year.

But buying gifts for teachers can be fraught with problems. To avoid giving unwanted gifts, such as chocolates to a teacher who is desperately trying to watch his waistline, or yet another mug to add to a cupboard that’s fit to burst, many parents opt for gift cards.

Giving gift cards to teachers can be a great idea, but there’s still a lot to think about. One important question to consider is:

What’s the right gift card amount for a teacher?

The average gift card amount for a teacher is $20 to $50. If your child has more than one teacher, you could split that amount between them.

You may give more or less, depending on your personal circumstances, but should almost never give more than $100. If you can’t afford to give anything, a handwritten note or card will always be welcomed!

Let’s take a closer look at teacher gift card etiquette and what you need to know before buying.

Should you give your child’s teacher a Christmas gift?

You shouldn’t feel obligated to give your kid’s teacher any gift at all.

Christmas gifts aren’t expected and avoiding gift-giving certainly isn’t frowned upon.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, only 57% of parents gave any gift to their child’s school teacher. There are many reasons why parents opt not to shower their kids’ teachers with gifts.

In some states, it’s actually illegal to give gifts to government workers, and that includes teachers. This is because a gift may cause a conflict of interest or could even be seen as bribery.

Even in states where gift giving to teachers is allowed, many schools have their own rules to discourage it.

If you want to give a gift, particularly if it’s something like a gift card that has a retail value, you should look up what the rules are in your area and your school to make sure that it’s okay.

The last thing you’ll want is to create the impression that you’re paying off the person who’s grading your kids, so if you do decide to give a gift, keep the value relatively small.

Is a gift card the best gift for teachers?

While teachers will be grateful for any gift at all during the holiday season, there are some gifts that you should definitely steer clear of.

The worst gifts for teachers:

  • Cliche gifts: They already have a stack of ‘number 1 teacher’ gifts from previous years
  • Food: You never know the teacher’s dietary requirements or personal tastes
  • Ornaments: You can’t know a teacher’s style enough to know what they would like to display in their home
  • Breakable items: Don’t trust your child to take a bottle of wine on the school bus and for it to arrive in one piece!
  • Mugs: Have you ever run out of mugs? No, teachers haven’t either!
  • Cash: Actual money in an envelope can feel awkward and a bit too much like a bribe

Many teachers proclaim that the best gift that they can hope to receive is a handwritten thank-you card or letter.

These are the kinds of gifts that teachers will keep forever. They cost nothing to make, but demonstrate that a lot of thought and effort has gone into them.

If you want to give your kids’ teacher a gift as well, then a gift card is almost always the best option.

Choosing a gift card amount for teachers

You can give a gift card to a teacher with any amount between $5 and $100.

Don’t be afraid to give a low value gift card. Teachers take care of a lot of different children, and it will all add up.

In elementary school, when your child only has one teacher, choosing a gift card amount is fairly easy. But in middle school, your child might have eight or more teachers, which makes things trickier.

You could find yourself with a whole list of school staff to buy for, such as:

  • School teachers
  • Teaching assistant
  • Principal
  • Private tutor
  • Sports coach
  • Music instructor
  • Before or after school club staff
  • School bus driver

If there are several different people who look after your child, you should split the amount between them.

This could be $10 for the main teacher, and $5 for each other person such as the classroom assistant, etc.

Alternatively, you could just buy gift cards only for the people who spend the most time with your kids, or their favorite teachers who go the extra mile to help them to achieve.

When choosing a gift card amount for a teacher, don’t forget to consider your own finances.

It’s okay to splurge a little if you have the means to, but don’t rack up credit card debt for the sake of impressing your child’s teachers.

When it comes to holiday gift giving, the thought counts far more than the amount of money spent.

When to give a gift card to a teacher

The best time to give a gift to a teacher is one to two weeks before the end of term or semester, plus around Christmas time if you’d like.

Don’t wait until the last day of school as there’s always a chance that either your child or the teacher will need to take a sick day.

You also don’t want to take the gifts in too early. For Christmas gifts, you shouldn’t be giving those out in November as that would be confusing and odd.

The best gift cards to give teachers

Teachers, for the most part, are grossly underpaid.

Many first-year teachers in the United States earn a salary of less than $40,000 and, according to the National Education Association, almost a third of teachers have to take on second jobs to make ends meet.

On top of that, the average teacher spends almost $500 of their own money on classroom supplies for the kids.

With that in mind, gift cards should enable a teacher to:

  • Treat themselves to something they couldn’t normally afford to buy


  • Buy educational supplies without spending their own cash

The best places to get gift cards from are the stores that sell everything. That way you can guarantee that there will be something that the teacher wants or needs.

Target stores are a great option for teacher gift cards
Mjs92984, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The top gift cards for teachers:

  • Amazon: The most popular gift card for teachers is from the online store that sells everything
  • Target: Teachers love the dollar section at the front of the store and there are lots of options online too
  • Walmart: If there’s nothing they need it can always go towards groceries
  • Starbucks: If there’s a Starbucks near the school, this is a good option, but you may also want to consider a local coffee shop if that’s the closest
  • Barnes & Noble: Most teachers love to read, so consider a book token
  • Teachers Pay Teachers: This is the top online marketplace for educational resources and a great place to get classroom items

It can be great to support small businesses, but you should be careful to make sure that you don’t choose a store that the teacher will have to make a special trip to go to.

You might also want to bear in mind that if a store goes out of business, gift cards are worth nothing, so choose carefully and avoid any that are at risk of closing down.

Another thing to consider when choosing a gift card is to make sure that the store has a good choice of low value items. Ideally, you don’t want the teacher to have to shell out a lot of their own money to be able to use the gift card.

How should you wrap a gift card for a teacher?

Gift cards are tiny little things, so you’ll certainly want to make sure that they don’t get lost in transit.

If your child plans to write a Christmas card for their teacher, then an easy option would be to simply put the gift card inside there.

However, given that teachers love handmade items, perhaps your child could make a handmade gift bag: All you need is a brown paper bag, coloring pens, some glue and some glitter.

Another fun idea would be to attach the gift card to another gift, like a small notebook or a pair of socks.

That will be a nice surprise for the recipient when they think that they’re getting a gift, and then see that it includes a gift card too.

Given that so much teaching is done online these days, an electronic gift card is the ideal gift for a teacher who your child doesn’t have face-to face contact with.

Just be sure that you have the correct email address to send it to. You may also want to double check that they received it, to avoid wasting money on an e-voucher that ends up in the spam folder.

Wrapping up

The best gifts for teachers and handwritten letters or cards, and nothing extra is expected.

However, if you want to give a gift with value, then a gift card is the best choice for a teacher gift.

Consider your finances and the number of teachers that your child has when deciding the amount, and aim to keep your total spend to between $20 and $50 if you can.

The best gift cards are from large or online stores that sell many different things (like Target), especially where teachers can buy classroom essentials. Just make sure that the amount of the gift card is enough to cover an item so that the teacher doesn’t have to chip in any of their own cash on top.

Allowing your child’s teacher to treat themselves at Starbucks is another great choice!

And again, remember that these gifts are optional and any small amount or even just a handwritten note will be much appreciated.

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Hope this helps!