Gift cards popular but on the decline

November 19, 2008 3:19:23 PM PST
It's usually the number one requested gift each year: A gift card. But new information from the National Retail Federation this week shows gift card sales are expected to drop about six percent this year.

Maybe not surprisingly, men and people over the age 45 are most likely to give gift cards.

And the average amount on a gift card $40.

What's not to like about gift cards? They're often called the perfect gift.

Millions of shoppers agree. Experts expect nearly $100 billion in gift card sales this year, but gift cards are not created equal.

Gift card rules vary state by state.

In Connecticut, retail store gift cards can't expire, and stores can't charge fees to use them.

New York says expiration dates and fee information must be printed on the card or receipt, and dormancy fees can't kick in until the card has sat unused for 13 months after it's bought.

In New Jersey, the cards can't expire for two years from purchase date, and there's a two year wait before a dormancy fee can be charged, and that fee can't be more than $2. They must have an expiration date on the card or receipt.

Gift cards issued by credit card companies and mall gift cards are cards you can use at any store in a particular mall, are different. They often have a number of fees attached to them. Some credit card gift cards will even charge you to check your balance in addition to dormancy fees and user fees, which eat away at the card's balance. Read the fine print before you buy. Store gift cards are by far the most popular.


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