NEW YORK (MainStreet) Gift cards are becoming a top item on many people's wish lists and are no longer just an option for the difficult. About 43% of Americans prefer receiving a gift card while 42% prefer giving gift cards, according to a new study.
"Gift cards present an easy way to gift without worrying about size or taste," said Leslie Tayne, attorney with the Tayne Law Group. "Always make sure you purchase them at the retailer the card is valid for instead of purchasing them at a drugstore, which might require an activation fee or other fees."
MasterCard's 2013 Holiday Survey found that 30% of consumers said gift cards are popular due to the stress of shopping compared to 23% who cited holiday budgeting.
"Prepaid gift cards are offered in a wide variety of designs and some even allow consumers to personalize the card with photos, messages and the recipient's name, making them a gift and a keepsake," said Sarah Ely, vice president with MasterCard Worldwide.
The most common value of gift cards both given and received is between $25 and $50, according to Bankrate.
Out of 55 brand-specific cards that include retailers, restaurants, airlines and gas stations, only three charge a purchase fee to all customers while three others charge a purchase fee in some instances. General-purpose cards, such as American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa, all charge purchase fees.
"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 with Bankrate.com.
Nearly $90 billion in gift cards are gifted each year and about $8 billion go unused each year with more than 23 million consumers still having gift cards left over from last year, according to CardCash.com.