7 On Your Side: Gift card DOs and DON'Ts

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's been the most popular holiday gift for the past 14 years. Gift cards. They are plastic bundles of joy we all get and give.

This year, more than half of all shoppers have them on their list. But before you buy, here are some gift card do's and don'ts.

First, don't buy so-called card-network gift cards. Those would be gift cards from Visa, MasterCard, or Amex. Each come with activation fees that cut into the value of your gift. Take the most popular from Visa. If you give a $100 Visa gift card, $4 comes off the top in fees. You might as well go with cash.

Do look for discounts. That means going to online sites like GiftcardGranny and Raise offer cards at discount. 7 On Your Side found REI gift cards at 6% off. GiftCardGranny had Banana Republic gift cards discounted 8%. You can just click on it and e-gift it. It's so easy.

RELATED: Be on the lookout for these shopping scams

If you buy in stores, do check the card's packaging before giving it. If it's been tampered with or you see the strip on the back has been scratched off don't buy it. You can foil that fraud by e-gifting.

Do check out gift cards that donate to charity. Giftcards.com offers cards for bunches of retailers and restaurants, and sponsors donate 3% of your purchase price to charities like Make-A-Wish or Feeding America.

Some big takeaways, don't wait to use them. More than $3 billion in gift cards go unused each year.

During the pandemic, many businesses are on the brink of collapse. If a business goes bankrupt, it will make it very difficult or impossible to redeem gift cards.

RELATED: Preventing porch pirates during the holidays

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