Gift cards have been all the rage for the past ten years or so. Friends and family have enjoyed the convenience of purchasing gift cards for birthdays, holidays, graduations, Christmas, Hanukah, and for nameless special occasions.
Who can complain about the convenience of these handy gifts? Gift cards save shoppers time, and the gift recipient is always delighted to receive credit toward their favorite retailer. Gift cards have meant big business for retailers such as Home Depot, iTunes, The Limited, and countless retailers and service providers.
As the holiday season approaches, consumers may again opt for this popular and handy gift. However, consumers should consider the state of the economy and how this influences the use and purchase of gift cards. If a company goes out of business before the gift card is used, the gift card becomes useless. No purchases may be made using the card, and no refunds on the purchase of the card will be offered.
Here are a few tips for those giving, holding onto, and receiving gift cards this year:
* Exchange Unwanted Gift Cards - There is no sense on holding on to a gift card that you'll never use. Try one of the online gift card exchange websites to swap or sell unwanted or unused gift cards.
* Watch for Closing Stores - Chains may not close all locations at once. If you notice a few restaurant locations have changed, try to use the card as quickly as possible at a second location. Chains tend to close poor performing restaurants first.
* Chain Restaurants May Honor Partner Gift Cards - Some chain restaurants are owned by the same parent company. For example, Max & Erma's is owned by the same company that owns Damon's, a 36-store chain based in Columbus, Ohio. Both Max & Erma's and Damon's declared bankruptcy in October 2009, and have closed store locations. After the closest Max & Erma's closed in her location, one reader reported that Damon's honored her gift card from Max and Erma's.
* Give Gifts with Meaning - Go back to traditional gifts. Instead of using a gift card, try a giving a unique gift, like mustard, jellies, BBQ rubs, or spices. These gifts are very useful and can be enjoyed throughout the year.
* Organize Gift Cards - Keep all your gift cards in the same place. Create an envelope and keep the gift cards in your car. That way, you can easily access the cards if you are on the go.
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