Gift registries: Are they worth it?

Don’t get caught out by a use-it-or-lose-it gift registry. Our review of 16 gift registries found some will slug you with steep fees and unfair terms.

Gift registries

Whether it’s the honeymoon or sorting out the new baby’s room, a gift registry might appeal as an easy (and more polite) way to get family and friends to chip in for what you really want.

However, our review of 16 gift registries found some will slug you with steep fees and unfair terms. Two services will even keep your money if you don’t use it in time.

Honeymooners

If your honeymoon savings are looking a bit sad, a travel registry your guests can contribute to could seem your best shot at your dream trip.

These registries are usually offered by travel agencies. Money gifted to your travel registry needs to be spent with the company you pick. So if you sign-up with a particular agent, you’ll be limited to the travel packages it offers, which may not necessarily be the best deals at the time you want to hit the runway.

The terms and conditions of some of the schemes we looked at may also make you think twice about signing up.

For example, two travel registries won’t refund a leftover balance once you’ve made your bookings. STA Travel and Flight Centre won’t refund any credit remaining in your travel registry, not even as a gift voucher, so those well-meaning contributions will be forfeited or you’ll have to pay for something you didn’t want.

Air NZ said after travel is booked, it holds the credit for another six months, after which it “expires”.

Helloworld refunds remaining credit as a gift voucher. Alternatively, you can have the funds transferred to a Mastercard cash passport (though this can come with administration fees of up to $10 for a reload).

House of Travel was the only travel agency that gave a cash refund if you haven't tried to spend the credit.

Time limits

STA Travel and Flight Centre also put time limits on how long you can keep unused funds without forfeiting them – terms that we consider unfair.

The companies state in their travel registry terms and conditions that if the couple doesn’t spend the credit within 12 months (STA) and 24 months (Flight Centre) respectively, the money is forfeited to the company. Flight Centre said it was store policy to extend the fund, but that’s not in its terms and conditions.

Air NZ said if no attempt had been made to use the fund within a year it would be returned to contributors. It didn’t respond to our questions about whether administration fees are charged to process those refunds.

Helloworld and House of Travel both require the couple to book within a year, though told us they would extend the time limit or refund the money as a gift voucher on request.

DIY route

Going the DIY route is another option. The Travel Registry website lets you create a webpage about your wedding and what you plan on doing with the cash raised (for example, flights to New York, transport and a night at a bed and breakfast). Gifters pick what they want to pitch in for (though have to go with amounts set by the couple) and put their contribution in your bank account so you can sort out the travel yourself.

The simplest DIY route? To avoid time spent setting up a registry and money spent on fees, you could just ask guests for cash in envelopes or deposited into your bank account.

Travel Registry has both free and paid options. Its $90 version has extra services such as email notifications and the ability to set the registry to private. With the free option, your plans are available for anyone to see.

Honeypot offers a similar service, but it come with fees. Honeypot costs $150 to set up, and costs every contributor 50¢ plus a transaction fee between 1.5% and 3.5% of the contribution (see our Table). The money is held by Honeypot and then transferred in lump sums every fortnight to your bank account.

The simplest DIY route? To avoid time spent setting up a registry and money spent on fees, you could just ask guests for cash in envelopes or deposited into your bank account.

Homewares

If you’re in need of blenders and pepper grinders, there are a lot of homewares gift registries to choose from. Some are the online offerings of bricks and mortar stores, and others are online retailers getting in on the gift registry action. But pay close attention to their fees and terms, as well as the goods offered, before choosing.

The Lovely Registry was the most expensive homewares registry we looked at. While there is a free option, it costs up to $100 for all the bells and whistles. If a couple opted for a Wishing Well (cash gifts) it takes a 5% commission on every dollar over $1000, and charges credit card-paying customers 4%.

The Lovely draws in goods from other online stores, so while you’re setting up your registry with The Lovely, guests will be buying from those other stores. That means your guests will pay delivery fees on every item, and as some stores are based overseas, they could be stung with shipping of up to $40.

We also think The Lovely’s Wishing Well cancellation terms are unfair. It takes a 10% handling fee (from the contributor) plus any other fees and commissions it deems appropriate. The couple could also be liable for “a sum” though what that is isn’t clear in the terms and conditions. The Lovely told us the fees were to cover the administration cost of refunding contributors.

Another registry, Mildred & Co, said it gave refunds in the event of a cancellation, but took 10% of all monies refunded. The company removed the clause after we questioned the term’s fairness.

Gift givers buying homewares through a Mildred & Co registry are charged between $5 and $13 for delivery – even if the couple chose to pick up the swag themselves.

Most other homewares registries are simply online shopping, but you’ve set up a wishlist and guests are doing the buying. That comes with standard delivery fees, which ranged from free to $18 among the companies we looked at.

Selfless giving

If your home is stacked with enough wares and the honeymoon’s covered, you might want to use the occasion to raise money for good causes. Givealittle and The Good Registry let you pick causes you want to fundraise for, so people pitch in a donation instead of buying gifts.

Both recoup costs by taking a percentage of each donation – Givealittle, operated by the Spark Foundation, takes 5% and The Good Registry takes 10%.

A perk of charity registries is that donors can claim back a third of the donation (any donation over $5) from Inland Revenue.

Look for transparency

It can be difficult asking if someone has paid into or bought something from your registry. So you need to trust your registry’s processes to make sure every dollar is accounted for and you’re getting an accurate picture of who has pitched in what.

Bricks and mortar store registries such as Briscoes or Stevens will provide the usual online shopping experience – which means email confirmation and delivery updates to contributors.

We found others had varying levels of transparency. For example, Helloworld and House of Travel will provide a list of who contributed, but not how much.

We recommend looking for a registry that provides transparency on both sides of the transaction – a receipt or acknowledgement for the contributor and specifics at your end too, a name and an amount or specific gift.

Things to consider

Before using a gift registry consider:

  • What are the fees for you and gift givers? Factor in transaction, delivery and credit card charges.
  • For homewares, what are the delivery terms – will it all be coming to you in one go? Will it go to the guest?
  • What happens if the wedding or honeymoon gets cancelled?
  • What’s the time limit on travel bookings? What happens to the money if it expires?
  • How does the travel agent manage unspent credit? Can you get it as cash or at least a voucher?
  • What processes does the company have in place to account for every dollar or gift?

Compare registries

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