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5 Gift Cards To Avoid For Holiday Shopping

American Airlines (AAMRQ)
The airline's mired in bankruptcy, embroiled in a labor dispute with pilots, saddled with an on-time arrival rate that dropped below 60% earlier this year and lodged in a holding pattern while U.S. Airways considers a merger or buyout.

With all those added benefits, who wouldn't want an American Airlines gift card?

The holiday travel experience can be nightmarish as it is, and while an airline gift card may seem like a great way to ease the burden on friends or loved ones, this card is a nightmare unto itself. It's nonrefundable, so you're wagering on the airline's future just by buying it. It also comes with a $5 shipping fee if you buy it online, which is about where you're going to buy it unless you're making a trip out to the airport for one.

A store whose core business still centers around selling CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs in malls isn't such a safe bet in 2012? Stunning.

We know our ratings folks have just loved that FYE's parent company Trans World Entertainment closed 14% of its stores in the past year and cut net losses from $7 billion to $2 billion, but what's great for investors isn't always so great for consumers. Cut losses are still losses and sales at FYE and other Trans World stores were still down 15% during the first half of the year.

It's a fundamentally different world than the one that existed when Trans World bought up music chains such as Camelot, Coconuts, Media Play, Sam Goody, Strawberries and Wherehouse Music and subsequently ground them into dust. Generation Y's penchant for stealing music online altered the marketplace, made it almost exclusively online and digital and pretty much ensured no one would pay $15 for a CD again. Meanwhile, on-demand and streaming services shut down Blockbuster and Suncoast outlets and changed the digitally downloaded movie from a combo pack's cheap throw-in to the main event on Amazon and Apple (AAPL) iTunes sites.

But go ahead: Give someone you love an FYE gift certificate and unleash them on the mall. You'll also want to give them an instruction manual telling them what a mall is, where they can find one, where the FYE is, what CDs and DVDs are, how they should go about buying them and why they're doing all of this instead of just buying a downloaded copy and playing it right from their device of choice.

Rite Aid (RAD)
Health and beauty stores are usually a holiday staple, unless that health and beauty chain happens to be Rite Aid.

This group of stores has been unwell for some time. Its share price hovers below $1.50. Its debt stands at more than $6 billion. Its plan to remodel 500 existing shops into "wellness" stores is so cash-strapped it wouldn't be completed until 2020 at the earliest. Its shareholders not-so-secretly hoped Walgreen (WAG) would buy it out and, barring that, rooted for Walgreens' fight with Express Scripts to continue so Rite Aid could pick up disgruntled customers.