One of my ex co workers recently helped me with glowing references, so I have been thinking to give him a gift card. Not a big one but just a small one. Would it be right to do that?
Personally I would just thank him in an email and leave it that. It's not that it's a "kick back", but if you're anything like me, you will work in more than one location during your career. Do you give him a gift every time? What about other references? What if a future reference isn't quite so glowing (due to the passage of time)? Do you withold a gift? At what point could it all become unprofessional?
It's not a big can of worms, but it's still one I'd leave closed. Thank him and move on :)
If you're friendly with this person, I don't see an issue.
If you're not relatively close with this person, it could be mistaken for some kind of kick-back.