Think Iowa City releases Johnson County digital gift card for holiday season

The Iowa City and Coralville Area Convention Visitors Bureau has released a digital gift card that can be used at over 80 different businesses in the Johnson County area.


Cecilia Shearon

Photo Illustration by Cecilia Shearon

Sam Knupp, News Reporter

Think Iowa City has teamed up with Yiftee and MidwestOne Bank to release digital gift cards that can be used at over 80 different local businesses in the Johnson County Area.

The gift card, part of the Shop JoCo Community Gift Card program, was released on Nov. 7 and can be found by going to the Yiftee website.

Stacey Houseman, special projects manager for Think Iowa City, a nonprofit that promotes tourism and events in Johnson County, said one goal of the program is to foster collaboration between local businesses.

“Keeping that money local, you’re giving money to your friends, your neighbors, and it just continues to cyclically work,” Houseman said. “That gets more people to want to open businesses here and all works in a circle.”

Houseman said, thanks to a sponsorship from MidwestOne Bank, the gift card can be bought with no additional fees through November and December.

Houseman said businesses have been very receptive to the digital gift card in its first week of release.

As of Nov. 11, the gift card can be used at 87 Johnson County businesses, including Mickey’s Irish Pub, High Ground Cafe, and Joe’s Place, according to the Shop JoCo website.

“By Christmas … I’m guessing, I’m hoping we’re going to have 200 to 300 businesses in total,” Houseman said.

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Houseman said consumers have the option to choose how much they want to put on the gift card up to $250, along with what day it is sent to the recipient. She said it can be redeemed at any of the participating businesses.

“Just like a phone order that they would take, they will just punch in the number manually,” Houseman said. “Really all they just do is run an activation card that our partner Yiftee emails to them. And then that just integrates their POS into the program.”

Houseman said the digital gift card is especially beneficial for sustainability.

“You’re obviously giving people this without countless other layers of tissue paper or wrapping paper or boxes,” she said.

Betsy Potter, Iowa City Downtown District director of creative services, said the Shop JoCo Community Gift Card program is a great opportunity for the community to “put their investment in locally owned and small businesses as an easy way to give the gift to spend dollars collectively throughout the entire county.”

The Iowa City Downtown District also has its own gift card program that has been running for eight years. Potter said this has allowed the employees of the Iowa City Downtown District to see how a community-wide gift card can benefit local businesses.

“We’re expecting great support from the community during the holidays,” she said. “People are starting their shopping earlier. So any different ways that people have the ability to spend and think about shopping locally here in Iowa City is a great thing.”

Sheila Davisson, owner of Revival, said the Shop JoCo gift card has the potential to help local businesses by incentivizing people to keep money local.

“It gets more people in the downtown area and gets somebody to try something they haven’t tried before,” Davisson said. “It’s an easy gift. And I think it just helps dollars stay local, which is what I think is the most important thing.”