credit cards
2008 Gift card study

Fee to buy 

For the convenience of using a gift card anywhere, consumers will have to pay. AmEx and Discover gift cards cost $3.95 per card and MasterCard and Visa gift cards will cost you around $4.95. (The fee varies depending on the bank that issues the card. Bankrate surveyed MasterCard gift cards from HSBC and Washington Mutual, and Visa gift cards from SunTrust.)

Despite these fees and restrictions, though, these prepaid bank cards continue to be desirable for recipients. In a survey conducted by First Data Corp., 28 percent of respondents say they would rather receive a gift card they could use anywhere. Still, the majority of cards sold are for a single retailer.

Where it can be used 

The majority of retailers allow consumers to redeem the gift cards in the store and online, a change from years past. In our survey, only CVS, Walgreens, Home Depot, Marshalls and TJ Maxx don't allow cards to be spent online.

Earlier this year, when the Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy protection, gift cardholders were left with worthless plastic. With many businesses struggling in this financial environment, gift-card givers should think about the health of the store they're purchasing cards from and receivers should spend their gift cards quickly.

Electronic gift cards

One common reason consumers cite for not wanting to give gift cards is that they are "impersonal." So, an electronic gift card, or e-card, must be perceived as the most impersonal. Again, to remove negatives from the product, many retailers and bank card issuers have stopped offering them. Of the 25 gift card issuers we surveyed, only 13 offer e-cards. Both and offer e-cards, but they also offer plastic cards. EBay cards can be purchased at numerous nationwide merchants, including A&P, Kroger, Albertson's, Meijer and Piggly Wiggly.

Whether you're buying a plastic card or an e-card, though, you can buy it online from every retailer and bank card we surveyed. This year Bankrate has links that will take the consumer directly to a retailer for purchase. Just click on the link for Find a card.

The 2008 Gift card study was conducted by researcher Heather Kuhn during the week of Oct. 24. Read the details of all the cards on the "Gift Card Results" page.


Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us
Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 16.24%  0.10 16.14%
Cash Back Cards 16.49% --0.00 16.49%
Low Interest Cards 11.27%  0.04 11.23%
Credit cards on a table

Get advice for managing credit cards, building your credit history and improving your credit score. Delivered weekly.


Credit Card Blog

Jeanine Skowronski

CFPB slams card add-on vendors

Two new enforcement actions call out two companies for unfairly charging consumers for credit card add-on benefits they did not receive.  ... Read more

Partner Center

Connect with us