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Want to make a difference? Try giving panhandlers a Visa or Amex gift card

Tell Them Who I Am
Tell Them Who I Am


Homeless and begging on the street is not a way to go through life.  But sadly, there are millions of people who – for whatever reason – find themselves having to do so.

Some do so willingly, as it is a better way of life than the one they left behind.  Others do it because they have no other choice, and they struggle to scrape enough together to have a meal, a toothbrush, some occasional clean clothes.

One reporter decided to see what the homeless really wanted, if money was seemingly no object.  So they GAVE THE HOMELESS VISA and AMERICAN EXPRESS GIFT CARDS with fixed dollar amounts to spend.  The plan was to offer the gift cards to any panhandler who asked for money, but the promise was to go out any buy only what you need, but to return the card to the reporter within 30 minutes.

The cards were all $25, $50, or even $75 in value — nothing overly outrageous could be obtained with these.

In some cases, the cards did come back to the reporter, and the recipients could share their story.  The reporter tracked the card usage behind-the-scenes — the most common item purchased was McDonald’s food.

There were a few cases where the cards didn’t come back.  One card that was given hadn’t even been used yet.   Some of the homeless were wary, and didn’t want to give up a lucrative soliciting spot in order to obtain some quick eats.  (Some panhandlers can pull together up to $100 a day or more — not necessarily worth giving up that profit for a Quarter-Pounder visit.)

It’s certainly a reasonable and rewarding offer to make yourself, next time you find yourself with some extra gift cards in your sock drawer that would be better served being shared with someone more in need.