It wasn’t long ago that giving gift cards for holidays and celebrations was considered a cop-out. But during the last six years, gift cards have become one of the most desirable gifts — to give and receive.
“I still think there is a lingering stigma to gift cards but it is disappearing quickly,” says Kendal Perez, spokesperson for GiftCardGranny.com, where you can buy and sell gift cards. “It is such a practical gift and people have so much stuff. It makes sense that gift cards are popular.”
This holiday season, 81 percent of shoppers plan to buy at least one gift card and 60 percent say they would like to receive gift cards, according to data from the National Retail Federation. Total spending on gift cards is expected to reach $29 billion.
The most popular categories for gift card purchases include department stores (39 percent), restaurants (33 percent) and book stores (21 percent), while cards from Walmart, Target, Amazon.com and Home Depot top the list of the most requested ones from retailers.
The gift card market has definitely evolved.
“Before you used a gift card when you didn’t know what to give,” says Perez. “Now it is like, there are so many different gift cards, which one do I give?”
A range of retailers have latched on to the popularity of gift cards by offering additional incentives with gift card purchases. Downtown Atlanta restaurant Legal Sea Foods, for example, will give a free lobster dinner to shoppers who purchase $200 in gift cards by Dec. 31. Hearth Pizza Tavern in Sandy Springs is offering patrons $100 gift cards for $75.
And the incentives are not just financial. Barnes & Noble, for example, allows shoppers to design and personalize gift cards for an additional $4.50. To make shopping for gift cards more convenient, Simon Malls introduced gift card displays at its six metro-area malls. You can also buy charity gift cards from websites like JustGive.org, where you choose the amount and your recipient picks the charity. Even deal sites such as Groupon.com now offer gift cards.
What if a gift card misses its mark? A growing number of sites buy unwanted cards at a portion of their original face value and resell them, including PlasticJungle.com and GiftCardRescue.com, as well as GiftCardGranny.
Resellers are behind Dec. 26 being dubbed Gift Card Exchange Day when they will buy your unwanted cards. Go to GiftCardExchangeDay.com, then enter the retailer’s name and card’s value to find out who will pay the most for your unwanted cards.
Which gift cards do you want to get or give? How do you decide what gift cards to give?
– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog