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Gift cards give your friends and family members more options.

The Pros and Cons of Giving Gift Cards During the Holidays

As the holidays approach, many people have lists of family members, friends and colleagues to whom they plan to give gifts. Choosing a unique item for every single person is challenging, time-consuming and can be stressful.

While some consumers love to spend the day in the mall perusing various stores, sniffing countless scented candles and will ultimately walk away with bags of perfect presents, this isn’t easy for everyone to do. Luckily, there’s an alternative to the gift-finding process that many gift-givers have found to be a very viable solution: giving gift cards.

Why give gift cards

There are a number of benefits of giving gift cards. First off, you put the power in the hands of the receiver. That person will be able to choose what to buy with the card. They’ll also be able to decide when to make a purchase, which means they can opt to shop during sales, allowing them to stretch their gift further.

If someone on your list loves a particular store that you’re not very familiar with, it may be intimidating to find a uniquely spectacular gift from that shop. Additionally, you may fear you’ll choose the same present as another person in your gift receiver’s life, or that you’ll buy something that person already owns. A gift card to that store solves this problem.

In other cases, you may not know which stores are your gift receiver’s favorites; a Visa gift card gives that person the ability to choose where to spend the money, as long as they accept Visa debit cards.

Finally, some people on your list may be states or even countries away from you, and may not be home for Christmas. On the other hand, you may be the one away for the holidays; in either scenario, you’ll likely rely on the post to present your gifts to your family members. While sending large packages can become costly very quickly, a gift card will fit sleekly inside an envelope and won’t incur any additional postage fees.

The downsides of giving gift cards

Though there are plenty of positive aspects of giving gift cards to the people you love, there are some downsides to this practice as well. First is the fact that many go unused every year. Of the $130 billion spent on gift cards every year, only $30 billion are spent, according to MarketWatch. That means consumers are leaving $100 billion on the table – or in the backs of their wallets.

When asked why they didn’t use the gift cards they’ve received, respondents to a Consumer Reports survey said they either didn’t have the time, couldn’t find anything to buy or forgot they had the card at all.

Additionally, some gift receivers say gift cards are impersonal and might give the impression that the giver is a lazy gifter.

Putting a positive spin on gift cards

If you’re considering buying a gift card for a friend or family member and want to make sure you don’t give off a bad impression for doing so, take some time to personalize your present by writing a heartfelt message in the card or handcrafting a card just for that person.

There are also a few things you can do to make sure your friends or relatives get something great from the gift card. If you’re not sure which store they’re likely to choose for themselves, give a Visa®  or MasterCard® gift card they can use at a wide range of places rather than a branded card to be used only at a specific store.

Another idea, similar to putting a gift receipt in the box of a piece of clothing you aren’t sure will fit, is to make sure the receiver knows how to exchange the gift card in case he or she really doesn’t want it. Some sites, such as Cardpool.com and Swapagift.com, buy, sell and trade gift cards at discounted prices.

Are you seeking the perfect gift for someone on your list? A gift card might be the perfect solution, and it’s easy to get one from Bank Midwest.