If you’re struggling to figure out what to get somebody on your Christmas list this year, money expert Clark Howard says there’s one thing you shouldn’t buy: gift cards.
The risk is just too high that the gift card will turn out to be worthless, according to Clark.
Why giving gift cards for Christmas is a bad idea!
“There has never been a year that it has been more dangerous to receive or to give gift cards for restaurants and retailers,” Clark said. “Both industries are having a terrible time right now.”
Meanwhile, several mall-based chains, including The Limited, Wet Seal and American Apparel, shut down all of their stores.
Restaurants haven’t fared much better. Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and Joe’s Crab Shack are a few of the chains that also closed some locations — often without notice to workers and guests.
If you give someone a gift card and they don’t use it right away, they could be out of luck if the store goes out of business.
“Someone who knows me well gave me gift cards for an ice cream parlor that I really liked — past tense. When I finally went, it was closed and the money was gone,” Clark said.
Keeping up with the wave of bankruptcies and store closures is a lot of work, so Clark recommends that you steer clear of gift cards altogether — even prepaid cards from Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
People tend to have a hard time using every penny on those cards, plus there are typically fees to buy them.
Clark does make an exception to his “no gift card” rule when they’re offered at a discount. Here’s how he explained it on the radio show:
“A gift card can be a good deal if you get bonus money. Joel of our crew got 50% bonus on a restaurant gift card recently, and my wife got 22% bonus on a restaurant gift card recently.”
Clark Howard’s bottom line: The better gift this holiday season? Cash. There’s no expiration date and you can use it just about anywhere!