Saving with 6abc: Why gift cards may make bad gifts

If the thought of braving holiday crowds at the mall is driving you to go for gift cards, you're not alone.

Spending on gift cards is expected to hit a record high this year. But buyer beware: Gift cards could have you wasting money!

Consumer Reports says as easy as gift cards are to buy, they can be inconvenient to use and even end up being worthless.

It's estimated that nearly a billion dollars worth of cards tucked away in drawers and wallets will go unspent this year.

The funds on gift cards won't expire within five years as they used to thanks to new regulations.

But Consumer Reports' Anthony Giorgianni says gift cards still don't make a great gift.

"One reason: fees. In the case of bankcards, fees can significantly chip away at their value," says Giorgianni.

Bank-issued cards with the Visa, MasterCard or American Express logo commonly have purchase fees that can run up to $5.

Then there are dormancy fees that kick in after a year or so - like TD Bank's $2.50 a month.

Ten months of that and a $25 card is worthless.

Lost or stolen? The replacement fee for a bankcard can be around 15 dollars.

"Cards issued by merchants typically don't have fees like bank cards. But we ding them on convenience, since you can use them only at the business on the card," Giorgianni said.

And if you lose a store card or it's stolen, you're probably out of luck as merchants aren't required to replace them and Consumer Reports found some who don't.

If you get a gift card this holiday season Consumer Reports says use it quickly.

Consumer Reports also says another big drawback to gift cards is that you have no legal right to dispute charges made on them as you do with credit or debit cards.

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