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Gift cards: Practicality is in for '09

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Editor's note: This story has been updated. See the 2013 gift card survey and accompanying chart.  

Gift cards are still wildly popular, even as Americans struggle through the recession, but many people are rethinking how they use them.

This holiday season, amid joblessness and overall economic queasiness, consumers want to know how they can get the most bang for their gift card buck. They are expected to spend a little less on gift cards in 2009 -- projected to be down as much as 5 percent from 2008's total of nearly $25 billion -- but they are still buying. They're just focused on avoiding fees, buying cards at a discount and giving more practical gifts -- think the grocery store rather than the jewelry store.

With that in mind, the stories below will to help you compare gift cards, find the right one for you, discover practical gift-card ideas, figure out how to dress the cards up, get discounts on gift cards and avoid tricky fees and expiration dates.

10 creative ways to wrap gift cards

Wrapping gift cardsFace it. Gift cards are just pieces of plastic. Your choice of presentation, though, can still make the gift special. Here are 10 ideas ... (more)
VIDEO: 3 fun, creative ways to wrap a gift card

 

13 ways to get gift cards for less

Gift card discountsPsst. You don't always have to pay full face valule for a gift card. It's not widely known, but with some work, you can spend less than you give ... (more) 

 

2009 holiday gift card comparison chart

Compare gift cardsOur annual chart compares gift cards from the largest retailers and credit card issuers -- including pricing, discounts offered, expiration information and whether they can be used online -- so you can find the perfect card for your needs ... (more) 

 

Gift card buyers' guide: 5 key questions to ask

Gift card buyers guideWant to save money on gift card buying? Ask yourself some key questions, do a bit of homework and your extra effort can mean extra cash in your pocket ... (more)

 

Rules of gift card game are changing: Here's how to win

Holiday gift cardsAs the landscape changes for the $50 billion per year gift card industry, you need to know where the land mines still are and how to avoid them. Here is a review of the full suite of impending gift card regulations. We've also provided consumer tips for making the best of the gift card market during this last holiday season before the new regulations go into effect ... (more)

 

The 11 golden rules of practical gift card giving

Holiday gift cards Americans are still buying gift cards during the economic crisis -- they're just opting more often for the practical over the glitzy. Follow these 11 rules and you can do the same  ... (more)
PLUS: Collectible gift cards: practical but fun

 

How to replace a lost or stolen gift card

How to return gift cardsThe reason so many of us love gift cards -- they're a lot like cash -- is also the reason they can be hard to replace when they're stolen or lost. However, there are steps you can take to reclaim your money ... (more)

  

 

Updated: November 18, 2013



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