Should you give gift cards this holiday?

Consumer Reports News: December 09, 2011 05:08 PM

It's tempting to give gift cards, but although they're simple and straightforward to buy, they may not be the ideal gift. According to our recent survey, even though gift cards are one of the most popular gifts given, a quarter of us still have unused cards left over from last year.

New rules and regulations do limit many of the old gotchas of gift cards, but they still have their drawbacks, so you might want to at least know the downsides before you decide to give them as gifts.

The new consumer protections apply only to merchant and bank-issued cards. So if you have a reloadable card or one that's not marketed as a gift card, you're going to want to pay close attention to the card's terms and conditions, to make sure the person you're giving it to doesn't get hit with fees that lower the overall amount they get to use toward a purchase. Bank-issued cards are convenient (you can use them almost anywhere), but they come with fees.

Bottom line, be cautious of giving gift cards, but if you're set on giving them this holiday, retail store cards are the way to go because they usually have little or no fees attached to them. And make sure the person you're giving one to actually likes to shop at the store the gift card is for. For more, see our video:

Maggie Shader

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