Sunday, 25 December 2011

7 ways to make the most of gift cards

7 ways to make the most of gift cards

Americans love giving gift cards during the holiday season. In fact, gift card sales are expected to reach $100 billion by 2012, according to TowerGroup, a research and advisory firm.

Yet recipients don't always remember to use them.

If you receive a gift card during the holidays, don't let it collect dust. Make it easy to reach for the gift card instead of your hard-earned cash. That means you want it with you when you're likely to be shopping, not at home in your sock drawer, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" series of online shopping guides and founder of

How else can you get the most out of the gift cards you buy or use this holiday season? Here are seven savvy tips

Mark your calendar
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or Credit CARD Act, limits some of the fees that gift card issuers can levy. Here's the rundown on the three major protections you need to know about if you're using gift cards

Know the different types of gift cards
Gift cards come in two basic flavors: closed loop, or those specific to one retailer or retailer group, and open loop, or general, network-branded cards that can be used anywhere.
Each has benefits, so it pays to know which one you have or want to give, says Breyault.

With closed-loop cards, offered directly by retailers, there are usually no fees -- either at purchase or later. You'll pay $50 for a $50 gift card.

The downside: If the retailer has no locations nearby or an online shopping site, closed-loop gift cards can make shopping inconvenient. If the store goes under, the card could be worthless.

"Times are tough," Breyault says. "You never know who's going to make it and who's not."

Open-loop gift cards often carry the imprints of major card networks, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. They can typically be used almost anywhere that accepts that brand. The trade-off: Consumers usually pay a fee to buy the card, says Breyault. After the cards are a year old, the issuer could assess other fees 

.Pair your gift card with a coupon
Retailers often don't let you combine coupons, says Mendelsohn. But you can combine gift cards with coupons to really leverage your buying power, she says.

"You have free money, and you can use a coupon," says Mendelsohn. "So take advantage of it."

Her tip: Go online and search the retailer's site for either coupons or coupon codes. If the discount doesn't specify "online only," the retailer has to honor it in the store, Mendelsohn says.

And if you have a smartphone, you can carry the online coupon there, just in case you need to show it to the clerk, she says.

1 comment:

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