What do Americans want for Christmas this year?

Cards. Specifically, gift cards. A recent survey from the National Retailers Federation reported that sales of gift cards in the U.S. reached $25 billion in 2008 — much more than any other single gift during the last holiday season. Overall, 55.2% of U.S. adults want a gift card under the tree this year.

What’s more, the NRF estimates gift card sales to be higher this year than last — despite a crushing worldwide recession.

What deals can American consumers expect, specifically, from gift card retailers this year? Let’s see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice when it comes to good gift card deals:

  • Revenge of the big boxes: Big box retailers like Costco (Stock Quote: COST) offer a lot more than just pallets of toilet paper, as appealing as that sounds. Costco members can pick up a $90 iTunes gift card for just $75 this holiday season. Or for the culinary-inclined, $100 Wolfgang Puck gift cards are going for $80 at Costco.
  • Kohl’s in your stocking: Retail giant Kohl’s (Stock Quote: KSS) is offering Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent in store or online. And starting this year, Kohl’s gift card kiosks will also offer a box of Godiva chocolates with every gift card purchase.
  • Beanie, Baby: L.L. Bean has a nice deal — an extra $10 gift card for every $25 you spend either in-store or online.
  • Have gift card, will travel: Marriott (Stock quote: MAR) also brings something to the table. The hotel behemoth will tag on an extra 10% for every gift card purchase of $50 or more.
  • Steak-Out: At high-end eatery Morton's, diners can get an extra $50 if they buy a $300 gift card. That offer ends Dec. 31, so act quickly. Rival Ruth’s Christ isn’t far behind — you can earn a 10% bonus card for every purchase of $250 or more at the restaurant.

When you shop for gift cards, remember the drill. Always read the fine print, check for expiration dates, avoid cards with any monthly fees attached, and check to see if the card issuer is in good financial health.

If there’s no motivation on that last point, just think of Circuit City last year and see if that rings a bell.

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