3. Restaurant/fast-food gift cards
Another very popular category of gift cards, according to the Archstone Consulting and NRN/The Hartman Group surveys, are restaurant cards. In fact, the Archstone survey found that more cards would sell in this category than any other.
While restaurant meals don't fit into the necessity mentality behind other gift card purchases, they do offer a small indulgence for otherwise cash-strapped recipients.
"I guess there the thought is people need a break," says Watters. "They're not going out as much to the Chinese restaurant or whatever. More people are staying home, making dinners at home -- so (it) gives them a break."
4. Clothing and department store gift cards
Gift cards for clothing and department stores follow in popularity after discount stores and restaurants, according to Coady.
Apparel gift cards appeal to consumers "because people don't necessarily have the funds right now to go out and buy new shoes, do whatever for work or (get) clothes for the kids," says Watters.
Indeed, the NRN/Hartman survey found that the majority of people, or 61 percent, who receive a department or discount store card will use it to purchase clothes.
5. Gas station cards
Watters expects a "slight spike" in petroleum or gas station gift cards this holiday season because many folks are feeling the pain at the pump. A gas card can help recipients free up money for other items or trips they want to take.
"I'm sure most people would be like, 'This is great. That's at least $50 for that month or whatever, that I can use and that will definitely help me,'" says Watters.
According to Deloitte's 2008 annual holiday survey, 17 percent of consumers will purchase gas gift cards, an increase of 4 percent from last year.