Experts Offer Tips To Make Most Of Gift Card Purchases

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As tri-state area residents flock to malls for Black Friday doorbusters this holiday weekend, there’s a good chance that many shoppers will be purchasing gift cards.

It’s the modern day version of a blank check, which is why Americans are snapping up gift cards faster than ever.

Retail analysts expect shoppers to spend an average of $145 on gift cards this year – that’s up about four percent from last year, adding up to nearly $25 billion for the holiday season.

Interestingly enough, the National Retail Federation said that those gift cards you bought last year might still be sitting in a drawer somewhere.

“It is one of the most frequently purchased and frequently desired gifts,” said Tod marks of Consumer Reports. “Yet, two thirds of Americans who had a gift card last year have yet to spend one of them.”

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Over the past two years, gift card sales were starting to cool, but people are spending more now, and they’re getting protections from the government.

Under the new Credit Card Act, gift cards can’t expire for at least five years from the date of purchase. If there are any fees, they have to be printed on the card or its packaging, and there has to be a toll free number for questions.

If you’re shopping for a gift card, experts have some tips.

Request a card from behind the counter, rather than the ones sitting on the rack. This ensures no scammers have copied the car number.

Remember, not everyone is a fan of receiving gift cards.

“I actually don’t really like it,” said shopper Ariana Chris. “I feel like it’s impersonal.”

Even so, gift cards have been the most requested present four years in a row. By the latest count, 57 percent of Americans are asking for them.

When it comes to the type of gift cards purchased, department store ones are the most popular purchases, followed by restaurants.