What Is a Voucher?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

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A voucher is a physical or virtual paper or a plastic card that holds an amount of money that is designated for purchasing something.

The most common examples are the voucher cards given to participants with their Social Security benefits; however, they can also be found in places like grocery stores, malls, and pharmacies.

Vouchers as electronic payment methods have become more popular. It has been used as payment mediums for a variety of products and services, even including real estate transactions.

In many cases when products or services are purchased from an online retailer, vouchers are provided to allow the consumer to receive what they have paid for.

These vouchers often require a printed copy and a signature to be valid.

Types of Vouchers

There are many different types of vouchers with a great deal of variability in their use depending on the overall economy, specific market, or desired effect.


A coupon is a type of voucher that can be redeemed for a discount.

It is used to describe both the digital ones found on websites and printed ones found in newspapers, magazines, etc. It has the same function as a paper or plastic gift card which can be exchanged at certain stores for goods or services.

Electronic coupons, however, are usually sent to the purchaser's device and can be redeemed immediately. For a coupon to have value, it must be presented before an item is scanned at the checkout counter or kiosk.

In addition, many major retailers require you to present a valid ID to accept a manufacturer's coupons.

Gift Certificate

A gift certificate is usually given as a gift for someone's birthday, graduation, or other events. It can also be found in most major stores and restaurants.

To purchase something with the gift certificate, the owner will have to spend more than what is on the card.

For instance, if you buy an item worth $25 using a $10 gift certificate, the remaining balance of $15 will be paid for with cash or a credit card.

AccorHotels Vouchers

AccorHotels vouchers are common in both paper and electronic forms. They are issued by Accor hotels to allow you to purchase their goods and services.

The voucher code must be entered during checkout at the website or in the app to use it.

Hotel Vouchers

For hotel vouchers, you can either receive them as a digital code or printable vouchers that must be presented when checking in at the hotel.

The reason why some hotels would prefer for you to walk in with a printed voucher is that they want you to see what types of rooms are available and to get a room with the amenities you prefer.

Prepaid Debit Card

Another type of voucher is a prepaid debit card, which can be used in much the same way as a gift certificate - for any purchase at any location that accepts the particular brand of card.

How to Use a Voucher

The general method of using any type of voucher is the same.

Exact steps may vary based on the type of voucher, the merchant that accepts its use, and other factors such as geography and time constraints for redemption.

The following instructions provide a general outline of how to use a traditional paper voucher:

  • Present the voucher for the purchase and review the amount available and what it can be used for.
  • Review all other restrictions on when and where it can be used, whether it has an expiration date, is part of a promotion or loyalty program, etc.
  • Complete the transaction as normal, but ensure that the appropriate amount is deducted from the purchase total.
  • Verify that the purchase has been completed and then destroy or file away the voucher to prevent future misuse.

Common Misconceptions about Vouchers

While vouchers are a popular method of payment for both consumers and businesses, there are numerous misconceptions around the various types of vouchers.

Less Secure

One of the most common is that paper vouchers are inherently less secure than other methods, leading many businesses to issue plastic cards instead.

However, there are numerous security measures for both types that make them generally as safe or safer than any other payment medium.

Paper Vouchers are No Longer Common

Another common misconception is that because they are not widely used, paper vouchers are no longer in common circulation.

In reality, voucher cards have only increased the popularity of paper vouchers as it is often more convenient for businesses to issue them because they can be detailed electronically and printed for use by customers.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vouchers

The benefits of using a voucher include flexibility, convenience, and a combination of marketing, cost reduction, and a payment medium in one item.

The main disadvantages to the system are the lack of consumer familiarity with paper vouchers, concerns around security that are largely unfounded, and their general unpopularity preventing widespread use.

Article Summary

A voucher is a medium used to pay for specific things with a list of rules.

Common misconceptions about vouchers include a lack of security and a decline in popularity, but this is not the case.

Vouchers have many benefits over other forms of payment including marketing, cost reduction, and their convenience which make them a great choice for customers and businesses alike.

Voucher FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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