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What is a Gift Card and How to Use It

"Ugh," you groan. Time to buy a gift.

While you may love the idea of giving a gift, you also fully -- FULLY -- understand how difficult it can be to find just the right gift for a friend, family member of work colleague.

With all of this drama and trauma in mind, you might want to consider giving a gift card the next time that you need just the right present for someone in your life. Through this article, you will be provided some basic information about the wonderful gift card that can make your future gift buying less dramatic and less traumatic.

How a Gift Card Works

A gift card is usually given in place of cash. Itís usually plastic, and carries a bar code or magnetic strip that carries information on the amount. This card is usually limited to one store, although lately shopping centers, malls, and other groups of merchants and organizations have offered gift cards to be used with anyone in their association.

Most gift card purchases happen at check out counters, where people buying other things snap one up as a small gift or additional present in a group-much of this happens where phone cards are sold, as people will buy them for friends and children away at college. This type of gift buying is almost an afterthought, and rarely serves as a main gift.

Phone Cards as Gift Cards

The phone cards are used by entering codes as each call is made, and plastic cards for particular stores or shopping centers are usually swiped through a machine designed to deduct the purchase amount from the gift value.

Buying Gift Cards on the Internet and World Wide Web

Many gift cards can now be purchased online. Itís done like a regular purchase, except that there is generally no card involved. After you give the company your credit card information on a secured form, they send you an email receipt to be used in place of the plastic value card.

The web based ďgift cardĒ is most often used online with gifts from that particular store or group. This kind of gift card is often purchased when itís not clear what the recipient would like, but that he or she enjoys that general type of gift.

The True Value of Gift Cards

While some think gift cards are just an easy way out or a dressed-up way of giving cash (which they sometimes view as thoughtless), itís a way of giving something someone can use and actually wants. Itís generally risk-free, although the cards are only good for a certain amount of time. After that, merchants either consider it expired or deduct a percentage for every month the card isnít used. Make sure you know the rules, and let the recipient know as well.





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