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Gift cards might be easy, but are they good ideas?

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Greg Peck
November 15, 2013

We've entered the Christmas shopping season. No, Thanksgiving isn't here yet, but it falls rather late in November this year, so we'll have limited shopping days between turkey day and Christmas. Many shoppers without great ideas buy gift cards for loved ones. That way, shoppers figure, recipients can buy whatever they most want. Besides, these cards are simple ways to mail “gifts” to friends and family who live far away.

Consumer advocate Clark Howard, whose talk show airs on WCLO in Janesville, despises gift cards. He realizes that, too often, unused cards sit in drawers, expire and create a gravy train for merchants. He says too many cards also come with fees, limited choices and other restrictions.

Howard's website has pages that provide alternatives to giving cards and to buying and using them.

The first is a certificate that you can print out and wrap around a cash gift to a loved one. The certificate has a message from Howard explaining his dislike for gift cards and showing him holding a giant dollar.

For those who still insist on giving cards, and for those who get them, Howard reveals websites that offer discounts of up to 30 percent for buyers and also offer ways recipients can trade unwanted gift cards for lesser amounts of cash.

Howard says the websites make money on the buy/sell spread.

“So don't let that unloved plastic gather dust in a drawer this season,” he concludes. “Discount gift card sites can save or make you some big money.”

Consider these options to help keep your holidays happy.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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