Gift Cards a Good Gift

By: Bill Martens
By: Bill Martens

"There you go, sir," says a Sears sales clerk. "You have a nice day today."

And I'm sure Steven Ziemendorf will after picking up a big wrench set.

Steve got a gift card from Sears for his birthday in October. The person knew he needed wrenches, but had no idea what kind to get.

Worked out OK for him.

"You can pick out what you want," says Ziemendorf. "Instead of maybe getting something that's duplicate, that you may already have, or the person's not quite sure what you want, here's your gift card - you make the selection."

And now he's ready to fix all kinds of stuff. Lots of people are getting into this gift card craze. The National Retail Federation says cards will count for roughly eight percent of all general merchandise sales for November and December.

That's more than $17 billion worth.

This year, shoppers are picking up an average of three of them, with a total value of $115.

Meanwhile, gift certificates are becoming a thing of the past.

"Gift cards - it's a plastic card," says Ron Kolton of Sears. "Certificates - work with paper. With a card, you can put it in your wallet, it's very handy and easy to access."

Keep your eyes open, though, for fine print on the card.

Some stores charge a monthly maintenance fee if you don't use it by a certain time.

Also, make sure you use your card before the expiration date.

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