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5 Gift Cards To Avoid For Holiday Shopping

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A gift card can be a great holiday present, if you get a good one.

If you pick up just any old card from a company that's limping through bankruptcy and has a roughly 50% chance of making it to the new year, you're not just lazy and thoughtless, but a jerk to boot. How else do you describe someone who throws $25 to $500 into a "gift" that may never be redeemed for anything resembling that value.

According to market research firm NPD Group's recent study of consumer holiday buying intentions, 34% percent of consumers plan to buy gift cards or gift certificates this holiday. The study also found that women and upper-income households are more likely to dole out gift cards than any other consumer group.

Considering you gift recipient has about a one in three chance of getting a gift card at all this holiday season, spoiling the experience with a card for a shaky, dying retailer or restaurant probably isn't the best gift-buying strategy out there.

To protect holiday shoppers' investments and prevent them from basically giving out empty promises, we enlisted the help of the folks at ScripSmart and looked into the financial well-being of gift-card-giving retailers across the country. After plumbing the depths of ScripSmart's gift card rankings, we came up with five cards holiday consumers might want to avoid this season:

Sears (SHLD)
This gift card made our list last year. Other than surviving this long, Sears has done nothing to instill much confidence in its gift card this year, either.

Back in February, it announced plans to spin off Sears Hometown and Outlet stores and sell 11 of its underperforming flagship stores to a real estate firm. In may, it decided to partially spin off its Sears Canada shops. Revenue has fallen every quarter this year and the Sears and Kmart brands themselves are just getting smoked by competitors such as Amazon (AMZN), Target (TGT), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Kohl's (KSS).

Sears and Kmart look and feel old, mostly because the company either doesn't care or doesn't have the cash to make them feel young again. While bricks-and-mortar competitors spend up to $8 per square foot painting, updating registers and replacing tiles, the International Strategy and investment Group says Sears spends only $1 to $2 per square foot updating its facilities. If a store looks and feels like the Sears or Kmart you or your family shopped at during the 1980s and 1990s, it's likely because it's changed little since.

This gift card warning applies to Sears, Lands End and Kmart cards, though the latter will likely be the last card in the deck, as Sears Holdings is closing Kmarts at a far slower rate than any of its other shops.

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