The dish on restaurant cards, certificates
A gift card or gift certificate to Mom's favorite restaurant can be a delicious Mother's Day surprise.
Plastic gift cards are typically issued by large chain restaurants in whatever amount you choose. They're not allowed to expire for at least five years from purchase, under a Federal Trade Commission rule.
Paper gift certificates are typically for local restaurants and may be offered through online services such as Restaurant.com. Gift certificates sold online often mean big discounts such as a $25 certificate that costs only $10.
But the certificates may be no good on holidays -- including Mother's Day -- and Mom might have to make a minimum purchase at the restaurant or cough up a mandatory tip. "You don't want (your mom) to have to pay this … after presenting the card," notes online shopping expert Frank DeBlasi, co-founder of deals site HooplaDoopla.com.
Don't buy a restaurant gift certificate unless you know your mom will use it, adds Jodi Furman, owner and blogger at upscale-living-on-a-budget website LivefabuLESS.com. "She might get far more mileage and enjoyment out of a Starbucks or more 'everyday' restaurant than a fancy French restaurant where the number of forks intimidates her."