Electronic greeting cards are a popular way to send holiday and other greetings to friends and family. E-cards cost less than traditional cards; sometimes they're even free. Other times, you pay a small monthly or annual subscription fee.
One of the best things about digital greeting cards is that you can send them at the last minute, and hide the fact that you forgot (or nearly forgot) an occasion.
Here are some of our favorite places to find Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and New Year's e-cards and postcards.
Updated for the 2013 holidays.
CardCow.com offers more than 1,000 vintage Christmas postcards and more than 1,000 vintage New Year's postcards, as well as many other categories. You can purchase the original printed version of a postcard (if it's still available), purchase a high-resolution (300 dpi) digital version of a postcard, send a free digital version of a postcard to a friend or family member, or save a postcard as a desktop image, also for free. CardCow.com also purchases vintage postcards, in case you have a collection you're ready to part with.
Ojolie has a nice mix of traditional and modern holiday images among its animated and hand-painted Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's greeting cards. Some of the cards are free; others are part of a small annual subscription. This family-owned company offers a 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee, but we can't imagine that they are asked to fulfill this offer very often. Each high-quality card is accompanied by music, and you can add a custom greeting. The Ojolie web site and cards are available in English, French, Spanish, and Dutch versions.
The Dover eCards web site is a great destination if you like vintage greeting cards, although it also offers a selection of modern images. You'll find Christmas and New Year's cards in the "Holidays" and "Winter Wonderland" categories. Christmas cards include more than two dozen black-and-white vintage illustrations, as well as full-color illustrations of old-time and modern Santas, snowmen, angels, pets, and children. The Winter Wonderland collection features vintage black-and-white and color illustrations of horse-drawn sleighs, snowflakes, and outdoor scenes, including skating parties. The e-cards are free, and include a personalized message. You can also purchase and include a gift certificate for a book from the Dover Publications web site.
Stacy Fisher, About.com's Guide to Freebies, maintains a list of what she thinks are the 10 best web sites for free ecards. While you're on Stacy's site, be sure to also check out her links to other free holiday goodies.
Doggone Greetings is a free ecard service for dog lovers. The holiday collection of ecards includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's themes, although the real focus is the dogs, of course. The cards feature a variety of breeds, dressed or accessorized appropriately for the occasion. The cards are also highly customizable. In addition to adding a custom greeting, you can add a custom image effect, and select a skin background, stamp, music, and poem. Unlike some sites, there's no limit on the length of your message, so feel free to express yourself.
Feeling adventurous this year? Why not create your own animated e-cards? Adrien-Luc Sanders, About.com's Guide to Animation, offers a number of easy-to-follow tutorials that will have you whipping up holiday animations in no time.
The Sloppy Kiss Cards web site is a pet lover's dream. You can send free ecards for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's, as well as many other holidays and occasions. Once you select a category and theme, you can customize your card with one of over 100 dog breeds, one of over 25 cat breeds, or another type of pet, including rabbits, pigs, chicken, mice, horses, ponies, parrots, frogs, and monkeys. You can then tag the envelope with a brief message, name the pet, and send a text message of up to 5000 characters. Sloppy Kiss Cards also offers a fee-based personalized ecard campaign service for pet-related businesses.
For another take on the 10 best web sites for free e-cards, check out Wendy Boswell's site. Wendy is About.com's Guide to Web Search, and her list probably includes at least one site you've never heard of. The list includes a variety of categories, not just holiday cards.
LeaninTree offers a small selection of free animated ecards for a variety of holidays and occasions, including Christmas and New Year's. The rest of the ecards are available for a small yearly subscription, with a free 7-day trial period. Holiday themes range from cute to funny to vintage to thoughtful. In addition to ecards, LeaninTree also offers traditional greeting cards, custom photo cards, ornaments, calendars, and gifts.
Send love, holiday cheer, or warm wishes this holiday season with a free animated ecard from Plaxo Ecards. Some of the cards are free; others require an annual subscription. Each of the cards offers a sample text message, which is handy if inspiration seems to desert you whenever you're faced with a blank box. In addition to a custom message, you can select a font, background color, and border for many of the cards; some cards also let you add a photo.