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Gift cards are a solution this holiday season, but buy carefully

Assorted holiday gift cards

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The holiday shopping season is in full swing and, as people ponder what to get for their friends and family, gift cards are often a viable solution for the picky person or the cousin you just don’t know that well.

Michael Gutter is an associate professor, interim program leader and financial management state specialist for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Family Youth and Community Sciences Department. He recommends giving gift cards, but has some caveats:

Hidden fees. Watch out for purchase fees when buying gift cards from a third party and not the retailer. The third party often charges an “activation fee” as a way to make money off of selling the card. Retailers typically do not charge that fee.

Expiration or invalid dates. The card officially might not have an “expiration date,” but it could have an “invalid date.” There is a little known law in many states that if the card is never redeemed, after a certain number of years the money gets split between the state and the retailer.

Cards for kids. When giving them to children, touch base with the parents to get their input as to what is appropriate and what to avoid. No one wants to cross any lines that would upset some parents.

Gutter says giving gift cards empowers the receiver to buy whatever he or she wants and teaches children valuable life skills in planning, budgeting, and purchasing.

“It shows them you’re thinking of them, but that you’re also respecting their right to make their own choices,” Gutter said. “And, if nothing else, they’re excellent when you need a last-minute gift.”

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302,

Sources:      Michael Gutter, 352-273-3529,

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