Written by Brooke Wagner

DENVER (CBS4) – I understand why many people enjoy giving and receiving gift cards. They offer a simple way to give someone on your list exactly what they want because they can pick it out.

I know lots of people who adore them, especially for teens. Personally, I struggle with gift cards. They stress me out because I sometimes forget to use them, forget I have them, forget to bring them with me, or just can’t find anything I need at that particular store.

Absolutely, it is the thought that counts. So make sure you put some thought into your card selection.

Here are some guidelines for giving someone a gift card:

— Make sure it’s for a store, goods, or services they consistently use or a store they frequent. If I’ve heard a person on my list talking about how much he or she loves Acme’s Widgets and can’t get enough of them, then Acme’s it is. Keep your ears open for hints, just like you would with any other gift. Gift cards shouldn’t be a lazy way out. Forbes estimates there are $60 billion in unused gift cards floating around in the United States, so don’t let the person you care about become a statistic.

— Take the time to think about the person’s situation. Do you know they’ve been having a rough time financially? How about a grocery or Target gift card they can use for household needs? Is it getting tough to afford the kids’ sports? How about a sporting goods card?

— Make sure you write the amount on the card and verify with the store that it doesn’t have an expiration date.

I’m not an expert, but I spoke with someone who is. Liz Luck with CardCash.com, which buys and sells gift cards at a discount, told me the economy has really changed the type of gift cards on Santa’s list. Here are the most requested, popular gift cards on the site:

Best Buy
Gas Cards
Home Depot
T.J. Maxx

Some Of The Hottest Gift Cards This Holiday Season:

Save Money On Gift Cards This Christmas:

Put Some Extra Thought Into The Gift Card You Pick:

Below are the ones most frequently sold to CardCash.com, meaning folks are trying to get rid of them and get cash in return (list provided by CardCash.com):

1. Spas — In this economy, people are not looking for luxury treatments and they would rather have cash to they sell those gift cards.

2. Airlines — With restrictions and baggage prices, people are not buying tickets from the airlines directly as much. They can get better cash value selling their airline gift cards and then purchase tickets from cheaper online travel sites.

3. Barnes and Noble — Many people are shifting towards downloading e-books on their iPad or Kindle. Therefore, people would rather have cash and use the cash to buy digital books from Amazon or iTunes at a cheaper price.

4. High-end retailers such as Brooks Brothers and Coach — Consumers would rather get cash and get more for their money somewhere else.

5. Seasonal merchants such as Sunglass Hut — Less desirable gifts during the winter months and many people lose the gift card if they hold on to it until the summer, so they sell to CardCash.

Switching gears a bit, Luck mentioned another new trend in this economy. It seems people are buying gift cards (sites like hers offer up to 35 percent off face value) then “saving” for a large purchase. So if a person spends $40 for a $50 gift card to Acme’s, they’ll save an additional $10 off Acme’s price.

One customer, Dave Orinski, said he uses gift cards to save.

“When I decide that I will soon need something new, like a TV from Best Buy, for example, every week I buy a couple of discounted gift cards and put them away in a drawer,” Orinski said. “Because most gift cards never expire, it allows me to budget my savings over the course of a couple of months, save money on the gift cards, and then gives me ample time to shop around for the best prices.'”

By the way, if you do choose to sell your card to a gift card sales/exchange site, you can expect to get paid for somewhere around 80 percent of the card’s face value, or that amount toward a card exchange. If you want to buy someone else’s discounted gift card, you can get up to 35 percent off the face value. CardCash buys the unwanted cards from individuals, verifies them, then sells them at a discount.

Please feel free to comment with your gift card tips or experiences. Happy Holidays!

Don’t forget our CBS4 Deals of the Day, and please pass along your thrifty tips in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.

LINK: CardCash.com

Speaking of saving for the holidays, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to take the family out for a meal this week, CiCi’s Pizza is holding a customer appreciation day Friday, Dec. 2nd, offering its buffet for $1.99 all day at area locations. Check with your local restaurant to make sure it’s participating.

About The Blogger

– In her Brooke’s Bargains blog Brooke Wagner writes about finding bargains and saving money for her family. She calls it one of her favorite hobbies. Blog entries cover everything from the latest steals, deals, and freebies to cheap family activities, saving for college, and what to buy right now.


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