It's all in the intention. My family doesn't generally do gift cards, but my brother (a teacher) used to do book tokens/bookshop gift cards when my children were small, having established with me ahead of time that I would make Going To The Bookshop into a proper outing (no fitting it around other errands that didn't interest children, no nagging at them to hurry up, they could choose what they wanted and I wouldn't argue unless they were trying to buy something borderline illegal, hot chocolate and cake in the coffee shop afterwards). My sister on one occasion gave me a gift card because for a month either side of my birthday she was working stupid hours miles from shops and without internet access, but she spelled out that I wasn't to buy household stuff with it, I was to spend it on myself, not on the children, and on a Genuine Treat, like the lipstick brand or face cream that I normally pass by as too expensive, and afterwards I had to tell her what she had got me.
That same sister gives the Elder Chick a supermarket gift card. He's a student, and her instruction to him is that while he can spend it on own brand pasta and cheap toilet roll if he needs to, she would like him to get something to make himself feel good, whether one packet of expensive biscuits, or an evening's worth of nibbles and snacks for him and his friends on the Dr Who DVD marathon.
My FIL gives him cash and while it's always welcome, both the Chicks know perfectly well that it's because Grandad has no idea what they need or want, and isn't interested in finding out. The Chicks say all that's polite but there's no real warmth on either side. I used to insist that they telephone later to tell Grandad what they had bought, but he wasn't interested in that either and wouldn't maintain the conversation with them.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that sometimes a gift card is a gift and sometimes it's not.