The National Retail Federation found 60% of consumers are requesting them. But not all gift cards are created equal -- and whether you're giving or receiving, you're going to want to get the most for your money.
Janna Herron of Bankrate.com explains, "Bankrate surveyed 62 gift cards and we found for the most part that the best deals are going to come from a store or a restaurant versus those general-purpose gift cards that have the Mastercard, Visa or American Express logo on them."
While general-purpose gift cards offer the most flexibility (they can be used just about anywhere), they also have fees.
Herron adds, "You're definitely going to pay a purchase fee as a buyer of a gift card. You're not only going to pay the $50 you're putting on the gift card, but you're going to pay anywhere between $3.95 up to $6.95 extra just to get the gift card. Besides the purchase fee, there's also inactivity fees "
The inactivity fees can kick in if you don't use the gift card within a year and can really cut into the value of the card.
Gift cards for specific retailers usually don't have fees, But, of course, you can only use them at that specific place.
However, some offer a bit of flexibility -- Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic honor each other's cards... As do restaurants in the Darden Group -- including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and more.
Herron warns, though, "If you are going to buy gift cards from these re-selling sites, I would really strongly recommend that consumers look for sites that have 100% money-back guarantee because what you don't want to do is pay $100 for a gift card and get nothing back."