5 Tips for Purchasing the Best Gift Card

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Gift cards can be a great choice when you don’t know exactly what someone wants, but you know in general what they like. Many people appreciate receiving a gift card because they can choose exactly what they want without having to deal with returns. According to the site Gift Card Granny, gift cards are the most requested present during the holidays, with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) cards being requested the most. Gift cards are also helpful to stores, because the average consumer spends 20 percent more than the worth of their gift card at the the store, plus many gift cards remain partially or completely unused. Still, although gift cards are popular, there are certain tips you should keep in mind when purchasing them. You can get a better deal by keeping certain things in mind, and you have a better chance of making the recipient happy if you think about their needs as well.

1. Read the fine print

Whether you’re buying a gift card for yourself because you see a good deal, or more likely you’re purchasing it as a gift, make sure you read the fine print. Some gift cards have an expiration date (usually two years, but sometimes one.) Other cards will let you continue to use the card even after the expiration date, but the consumer will have to pay a small fee each time they use it. In addition, some businesses charge the person buying the card a small convenience fee, but this is rare. Make sure you read all the fine print before you purchase the card. Some people might not appreciate a gift as much if they only have a short amount of time to use it.

Some gift cards have fine print directing where the card can be used as well, so look for that when reading over all the details. Certain cards can only be used in an actual store, and not online. Include the terms when you give the gift card to someone.

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2. Purchase the card at the right store

Although you can go directly to a store and purchase one of their gift cards at any time, this may not be the best way to purchase the gift card. Many stores will have promotions during the holidays. One particular store is Steak N Shake, which often offers a deal around the holidays that if you purchase a certain amount in gift cards, you get an extra gift card free. Many stores offer similar deals.

In addition, consider purchasing gift cards at a grocery store or another store you commonly shop at. Many stores with rewards programs carry gift cards from several other stores, and you can maximize your own points by buying your cards at a store that you frequent often. That way when you purchase your gift cards, you will earn extra points for yourself, and be able to use them for a percentage off gasoline or other purchases.

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3. Consider a discount site

Gift Card Granny is just one of the many sites that allow users to purchase discount gift cards from other users. Cardpool is another similar site. These websites offer several gift cards at a discounted rate. Although you won’t always find the exact store you are looking for, you often will. These sites also offer the possibility of purchasing a gift card for someone who likes a store that you don’t have nearby, which will increase the chance that you will give them a gift that they actually will use.

Also, if you ever receive a gift card that you don’t want, you can sell it on one of these sites too. Of the used gift cards, $44 billion has accumulated since 2008, so clearly not everyone is using the gift cards they receive. While some people use part of them and then forget them, others are not using them at all. Therefore, selling gift cards to people who actually want them is an excellent way to rid yourself of an unwanted gift.

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4. Be aware of gift card theft

Although sites like those mentioned in point three can be a great way to get a good deal, you have to be very careful when purchasing gift cards online. If you do purchase from a discount site, be sure to read the fine print and check if the company offers protection if you purchase a gift card that doesn’t work.

Also be aware of deals that seem too good to be true. Especially around the holidays, criminals will send phishing e-mails, and people who respond or fall victim to these scams can easily lose money or have personal information stolen. The FBI also warns against purchasing gift cards from the classifieds or through auction sites. Again, be sure that the site is reputable. Avoid sites that ask for personal information that seems unnecessary.

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5. Be sure that a gift card is appropriate

Most people enjoy receiving gift cards and appreciate being able to choose their own gifts. However, a gift card isn’t always the appropriate choice. One of the main complaints that people have about gift cards is that the person who opens it will know exactly how much money they spent.

When giving a gift card, do some research to find out about the person you are buying it for. A last minute gift card that you pick up at the hardware store because you happen to be there won’t feel genuine if the person receiving it would have no use for it. Be sure the gift considers their tastes and not your own.

Lastly, some gift cards are not appropriate in most circumstances. One example is a gift card for alcohol. Another is a gift card for a child without consent from their parents. Some exceptions could be made, but it’s better to ask the parents what is appropriate first.

Gift cards can be a great choice for a gift. Just be careful where you buy them, and try to purchase one that the recipient will use.

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