Gift cards: Practicality is in for '09
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.
Psst. 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)
Our 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)
Want 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)
As 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)
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
The 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)
- Merchants have a big incentive to lure you away from credit cards – As general market credit cards become costlier to accept, retailers are under pressure to lure cardholders away from premium rewards cards. That could mean discounts for using gift cards, store cards and other payment methods ...
- You can now rent a car with a debit card without all the hassle – If you prefer to use debit cards instead of credit when you travel, your next trip may be less stressful. Some travel companies have relaxed their restrictions on using debit cards to book rental cars ...
- Wearable payments are finally starting to take off in the U.S. – A growing number of U.S. brands and financial services companies are embracing payment-enabled wearables that you can tap to pay without fumbling for a physical phone or card ...