While some avid holiday shoppers crowd the aisles of local stores, others will take the easy way out: buying gift cards.

It may seem simple, but gift card shopping has its own pitfalls — note that 25 percent of cards go unused every year — so there are some things, courtesy of cardhub.com, you need to know before you go.

  • Wish lists lead to better gifts: A gift card to a store you don’t shop at or a movie theater that’s not in your area, is unexciting, wasteful, and reinforces the perception that gift cards aren’t personal.
  • Find value in unused gift cards: a) Sell unused gift cards  for cash via online gift card exchanges; b) Recoup funds from expired cards through state programs; c) Re-gift an old, beat-up gift card by first trading it in for a shiny, new card of equal value.
  • Buy discounted cards: Your gift recipients will have no clue that you paid up to 30 percent less than the face value of the cards you’re giving them.
  • No more “use it or lose it”: The CARD Act prohibits gift cards from expiring less than five years from the date they were issued or money was last loaded.
  • Buy Gift Cards with Credit Card Rewards: 28 percent of consumers plan on using credit card rewards to buy presents this holiday season, according to Amex.  This is a particularly useful strategy when it comes to buying gift cards because most credit card companies offer more value with gift card redemption than with cash back.  For example, Citi ThankYou Points are 37 percent more valuable when redeemed for gift cards as opposed to cash.
  • Avoid unnecessary fees: In order to avoid unnecessary gift card fees, search for stores that offer free shipping or digital gift cards and definitely avoid general-purpose gift cards.
  • Avoid overspending: For whatever reason, 66.7 percent of consumers spend more than the face value of their gift cards.  In order to minimize holiday costs, we must all avoid this temptation.
  • Keep an eye out for disclosures: The 2011 holiday season is the first in which gift card issuers are required to have transparent disclosures on their cards, which means consumers can feel confident that what they see is what they get.
  1. contador says:

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