Top Gift Cards for the Holidays
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) While purchasing gift cards remains the most popular holiday gift, not all of them are created equal and some charge large fees to buy them.
Most Americans prefer receiving general purpose gift cards or ones with an American Express, Visa, Discover or MasterCard logo, according to a Bankrate.com report. Consumers may not realize that these cards tend to carry more fees than brand-specific gift cards or ones from retailers, restaurants, airlines and gas stations.
While 100% of general purpose gift cards charge purchase fees, only 11% of brand-specific gift cards do. In addition, 71% of general purpose cards carry a dormancy or maintenance fee, which means the recipient could incur costs if he doesn't use all of the funds after one year. None of the brand-specific cards charge a dormancy or maintenance fee.
Gift cards have been the most popular gift choice for the past five years, according to the National Retail Federation. Bankrate found that 53% of Americans prefer general purpose gift cards. Two-thirds of people who make more than $75,000 a year prefer general purpose gift cards.
"While most Americans prefer to receive general purpose gift cards because they can be used almost anywhere, they should be aware of the fees these cards charge both purchasers and recipients," said Janna Herron, credit card analyst for Bankrate.com. "For example, all of the general purpose cards that we surveyed charge the purchaser up to $6.95 and 71% charge dormancy or maintenance fees to the recipient. None of the brand-specific cards charge dormancy or maintenance fees."
Depending on the amount you purchase for the card, the fees range from $3.95 to $6.95 for each card, which can be a hefty amount for a single gift.
There are ways to avoid paying fees for some cards. Exxon Mobil does not charge a fee if you buy the gift card at a gas station but does charge buyers if they purchase it online, Herron said. Buying cards from large retailers such as the Gap allows the receiver to use it at any of their other stores such as Old Navy or Banana Republic.
"It's a very popular gift," said Herron. "Gift cards are the number one item on the list. We expect growth in gift card sales this year. These are so convenient to use."
The most common value of gift cards, both given and received is between $25 and $100, the survey revealed. People over 65 and those between 18 and 29 years old are the least likely to give a gift card. As income level increases, Americans are more likely to give and receive gift cards. In the event of loss or theft, 69% of gift card issuers will replace the card and/or funds.