Apple makes money and it sure knows how. Why offer customers with discounts when you can give them gift cards that they can only spend to buy your products or eventually forget until they expire? This seemed to be the game plan of Apple for the Black Friday shopping frenzy in the United States. It is nothing new for the iPhone and iPad manufacturer. It has been a habit for years as it stood out of the crowd of retailers that offer direct discounts on hardware.

Apple gave away Apple Store gift cards worth $50 for those who bought the non-Retina Display iPad Mini or the iPad 2. Those who grabbed an iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air received $150 worth of gift cards. The same is true for other products such as the Apple TV and the iPod.

The company did not offer any gift cards for iPhones and the Retina iPad mini, most likely due to supply issues. Walmart, on the other hand, offered $75 worth of gift card for consumers who bought an iPhone 5s or an iPhone 5c. Target also offered $75 gift card for buyers of the Retina iPad mini.

However, shoppers in Britain, where the Black Friday is being emulated, got better deals. Apple offered direct discounts for the non-Retina iPad mini and the iPad 2 that sold at discounted prices of £234 from £249 and £304 from £329, respectively. The newest member of its tablet line, the iPad Air, was sold for £368 down from £399. Apple also slashed prices of the iMac, MacBooks, iPods, and accessories in Europe.

Apple's gift cards can be used to buy hardware and accessories on the online store or brick-and-mortar stores of Apple. Consumers cannot use it to buy apps or any digital content.

"The way the gift card psychology does work aligns with one part of the Black Friday appeal. As we buy holiday gifts for others there is always the temptation to buy things for ourselves," wrote Forbes contributor Anthony Wing Kosner.

"The gift card gives us the promise of buying something for ourselves later while still holding to our immediate non-self-centered agenda for holiday shopping. For Apple of course, the gift cards are the prod for a second cycle of (not-discounted) holiday shopping in December and immediately after," he added.

However, according to a study of CEB TowerGroup, around $1.7 billion worth of gift cards were not used in the United States in 2012.

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