Gift Certificates Now Provide Choice, Flexibility and Online Purchase Ease but Buyers Beware of the Fine Print, Hidden Fees and Limitations

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Gift Card sales are poised to surpass 80 billion in sales this year. For last minute holiday shoopers, gift certificates are an excellent option to buy and deliver gifts in the twinkling of an eye. But buyers must beware of hidden fees, expiration dates, fraud, stolen card policies and fine print restrictions. Smart shoppers will compare the popular choices for the best deals on gift certificates in the World Wide Web.

Gift cards are the perfect option for the holidays

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except the clicking of a mouse. For those last minute shoppers, electronic gift cards offer an excellent option to buy and deliver gifts in an instant. However, be prepared to get the magnifying glass out and read the fine print.

"Gift cards are the perfect option for the holidays," said Miri Sommers, President of Operations, "They offer flexibility, ease of purchase and can be delivered up until the last minute. We know, however, that some shoppers are rightfully concerned about expiration dates and hidden fees. Our gift certificates have no expiration date, no fees for purchase or delivery and are replaceable if lost or stolen. Consumers are encouraged to compare our gift cards to any other company. We think ours stands up as one of the best values in the industry. In addition, due to the fact that our card can be used for fun experiences rather than just more stuff, our certificate is perceived as a thoughtful and desirable gift to the recipient."

With the ever-increasing time famine of the modern day holiday shopper, online purchases are on the rise. According to the National Retail Federations (NRF) annual Holiday Consumer Intentions Survey, 47% of shoppers surveyed said they intend to make holiday purchases on the Internet this season.

Among the thousands of online gift choices, one of the most the popular is the electronic gift certificate. In fact, gift certificates are expected to be the number one gift purchase this holiday season according to Deloitte and Touche. In addition, the NRF predicts annual gift card sales to exceed $80 billion in total sales for 2006.

Despite the growing popularity of gift cards with both consumers and recipients, the industry continues to be a source of controversy in terms of fee-structures, expiration dates and redemption rules.

Smart consumers will comparison shop and read the fine print before making the purchase. Pitfalls include:

1.    Expiration dates: beware of cards with expiration dates. Even those with "grace periods" often reduce the value of the card once the expiration date is past. Look for cards with NO expiration dates.

2.    Usage limitations: many cards are limited in terms of where they can be redeemed. Even big box online cards are only redeemable online only. Look for cards that offer hundreds of merchant choices.

3.    High fees for handling, shipping & emailing: Beware of hidden fees. Look for cards with free shipping and/or emailing.

4.    Purchase and delivery fees: Bank cards are the guilty parties here and often charge fees from a few dollars to over $15 just for purchase. On the other end, your recipient may be charged for using the gift card that ultimately reduces the value.

5.    Replacement fees: lost or stolen cards are always a problem. Some companies are willing to replace a card if you fill out legal paperwork or pay a fee. Look for cards with free replacement.

6.    Maintenance fees: Some companies actually charge a monthly replacement fees that quickly reduces value. Look for cards with no monthly fees.

Added value features include on-line redemption for a wide variety of merchants, personalization, email-able cards and fee-free cards. ( offers a no-hassle gift certificate. The site offers experientially based gift certificates with no strings attached for either the consumers or the recipients. There are no fees or taxes as well as no expiration date, the gift certificates are easily replaceable if lost or stolen and are redeemable for thousands of merchants including restaurants, airfare, spas, hotels and even major sports and Broadway tickets. In what amounts to a virtual twinkling of an eye, consumers can purchase a gift card in amounts ranging from $10 to $5000 for thousands of options. Best of all, will deliver on Christmas day via email.

Many other popular cards, however, have maintenance fees that apply if the card isn't used after six months or a year, or an expiration date. There are both fees and yards of red tape for replacing a lost or stolen card. Many have conditional redemption that does not allow recipients to redeem their gifts for popular merchants. Still others, such as several big box gift cards, are only redeemable via the Internet and not in-store.

Some of the largest online companies charge service fees for email as well as shipping and handling fees. One very popular bookstore site does not charge fees, however their cards may not be used for only certain merchants and their card has an expiration date. Still others are most restrictive which redemption choices at limited national retailers and outlets.

The bottom line is that gift cards are a great option for both the giver and the recipient as long as you avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the great deals and promotions. Gift cards are both practical and personal and are truly perfect for that hard-to-buy-for person on your holiday list.


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