Holidays Made Easy

Buying gift cards this holiday? Here are some helpful tips

Gift cards aren't the most inspired of gifts, but they're practical and to the point. Here’s what you need to know before you buy one:

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Gift cards are displayed for sale at a Kroger Co. store in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Kroger Co. is expected to release quarterly earnings on June 18. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Security protection is often available. In 2015, half of the 60 popular gift cards reviewed by Bankrate offer the ability to add a security code, a jump from just 35 percent last year. This can help protect the balance on a card that’s lost or stolen — a good thing, particularly if you’re giving the card to a Millennial; four in 10 cop to having lost a gift card that still had value on it.

General gift cards have an added fee. Americans under 65 year old said they’d prefer to receive general purpose gift cards, like those from American Express or Visa. Be prepared to cough up a few extra bucks for these, which charge purchase fees ranging from $3.95 to $6.95. Consumers 65 and older prefer gift cards that can be redeemed only at specific retail stores or restaurants. Only 4 percent of store-specific cards have similar fees.

E-cards are an alternative to plastic. More than two-thirds of gift cards this year are available as e-cards. This is a jump up from under 60 percent last year — and good news for anyone who saves shopping for the very last minute. There’s nothing like a Christmas morning email to say, "I’m thinking of you!"

Come back tomorrow to see the next holiday savings tips unlocked!

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