I’ve always found gift cards a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong, I like gifts and never turn them down. But it seems to me a gift card is the giver’s way of saying, “I wanted to give you a gift, but either don’t know what you want or am too lazy to go buy an actual gift.” Worse, there are amounts you may have a tough time spending in full, say $25 at Best Buy, where you’ll likely have to dip into your pocket to buy two CDs you may have found on sale elsewhere, or just bought the two good songs a la carte on iTunes. To make matters worse, the non-store specific cards carry an ‘activation fee’ that runs as high as $5.95, this for the honor or giving them your money.
Now, I run into an article on CNNMoney that confirms my other thoughts on this topic, 27 percent of recipients never use the card they got. Forget about the cards that have a monthly fee and eventual expiration, over 1/4 of the cards given get lost, forgotten, or just put aside as they are to a store that one doesn’t frequent. My 9 year old likes the gift card, it feels like a grown-up thing to use, like a credit card. But I can do without them altogether. You want to give me a gift but don’t know what to get me? Send a check to the New England Shelter For Homeless Vets in my honor. You’ll get a tax deduction and I’ll feel better knowing the money went to help those in need.
(1/2 update – There are Consumer Protection Laws which apply to gift cards and impact the fees charged as well as expiration times, these laws vary by state.)