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TheStreet Open House

10 Best Gift Cards For Holiday Shopping

Stocks in this article: AMZN AXP COST GPS HD MAR V WFM

American Express Gift Card (AXP)

American Express still charges a $4 purchase fee for the privilege of buying its gift cards, but that fee upfront spares users more fees down the road and opens up a ton of options for undecided shoppers.

American Express dropped the expiration dates and monthly fees on its gift cards and allows users to replace lost, stolen or damaged cards for free and get full refunds for unused cards. It's like handing someone $25 to $3,000 at once -- or as much as $5,000 on two cards -- and sending them on a shopping spree anywhere in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that takes American Express (except cruise lines, casinos and ATMs).

Not being able to redeem them outside the United States means no mulled wine from Europe or high-end fleece purchases in the Himalayas. Holiday shoppers in Hawaii and Vermont are out of luck as well, as American Express doesn't deliver gift cards to either state and won't allow potential e-card buyers in those places to make those purchases. The worst part, however, is that you can't get it online without incurring a $9 fee. That's for a card you can't use online if it isn't registered from a company that doesn't even have a website to let you register it. It's annoying when you're basically just trying to give someone money.

GiftCardMall.com Visa (V)

Like the American Express card, this is just another more subtle way of handing someone cash.

Unlike cash, though, this Visa costs buyers $3.95 just for the purchase and another $1.99 for delivery. That's not great but, also unlike cash, if it gets lost or stolen GiftCardMall.com can ship a new one complete with the remaining funds.

With that peace of mind, the card can be used at any store or online outlet that accepts Visa. It has no further fees, no expiration date and basically no restrictions on how to spend the $20 to $500 on it.

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