We have customers using magnetic strips for gift cards and also barcodes. However our current recommendation for the coding on the back of a gift card is to go with a barcode. This is for the following reasons:
1. The magnetic strips can be demagnetized. If this happens, it is very hard to look up a customers' gift card. The reason being that there is a lot of other information that is encoded on a magnetic strip other than simply the number. These include starting and ending sentinels that tell an application where the tracks begin and end (%B, ?;, etc.). RetailEdge will use all this information when creating and storing the gift card number. For instance, you might have a Card that has a number on the bottom of it like 07675002754, but the number that will be stored in RetailEdge will contain all the track information and other information and might look something like %B4416000010008936^07675002754$?; So the clerk would have a difficult time looking this up if the magnetic strip was not working properly. (Although it would provide a more obscure number and hence better security.)
2. The number of characters allowed for a gift card number are 50. This is normally Ok on magnetic strip using a standard magnetic strip reader. However, in the interest of security we a now doing a lot of things with encrypted swipes. These encrypted swipes will take magnetic strip information and increase it's size significantly and exceed the allowable 50 character limit.
Barcodes don't have these limitations and since you have barcode reader already, you should consider using barcodes on your gift cards.
If you determine that you want to go with magnetic strips on your barcodes, then you would want to go with Hi-Co (these are longer lasting and typically what you would be used on a credit card, track 1 or 2. The data to be encoded on the track can be anything (alpha, numeric or alphanumeric) and you can start at any number you want (i think most people start at 1,000,000 and work up).
Also you should make sure that if you are using PPI for processing, that you don't get an encrypted swipe. Or if you have an encrypted swipe, then you will need another just for your gift cards to ensure you don't exceed the 50 character limit.