Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shopping Tips for the 25 Days of Christmas: Tip #19

With so many of us cutting back this holiday season, we are searching for sensible, meaningful gifts to help stretch our gift-giving dollars. Many of us are looking for gifts for people who may need some extra help this holiday season including elderly parents, college students and others. In the past, it would have made sense to give a splurge gift, now it makes sense to give something that is considerate and useful.


Look to gift cards for sensible gifts this holiday season!

A couple of extra tips to accompany this tip:

A word of caution in purchasing gift cards from smaller, boutique type stores, smaller regional retailers and retailers that are currently struggling. Well, yes, most retailers are having a tough season, but big box national retailers are in this game to stay, so to purchase and give gift cards from Target, Walmart and Best Buy are all a solid bet.

Find out if you get bonus points from your grocery store for purchasing gift cards. Currently, my Ralph's store is offering triple points for gift card purchases, and I can buy gift cards and translate those points into discounts for gas and groceries. Be careful, however, as they sometimes charge a processing fee that can cut into your total purchasing power and erode the "benefit" of bonus points awarded.

Find out if you receive special points, air miles, etc., on your credit card for buying MasterCard, Visa or American Express branded gift cards. I recently got an XBox 360, a Nintendo DS and some Wii games at NO CHARGE by "cashing in" on my Amex points. Not bad!

Be careful about purchasing gift cards, as there at least one major gift card scam that is impacting consumers. Both internal and external thieves will write down gift card numbers and frequently check to see if those gift cards have been purchased and activated. As the activation is often immediate upon purchase, if they have captured a gift card number that is activated they can use those funds themselves. Pick gift cards from the middle of the display, or try to select the gift cards that require a scratch off number for activation. Better yet, if you can, ask a cashier for gift cards that are located at their register as those would be more difficult to be tampered with (most registers at major retailers have cameras on them, it would be exceedingly difficult for a cashier to play any kind of gift card scam while being watched by the "eye in the sky".

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