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One of the best gifts to give someone for the holidays is a gift card. That's because it's what most people want, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. But how do you pick the right card?
"The best gift card to give is the one the recipient wants," said Shelley Hunter, who is known as the Gift Card Girlfriend at GiftCards.com. In other words, it's a card that allows recipients to shop at their favorite retailers, at retailers with a variety of products, or even at multiple retailers, and it's easy to give and use.
So if you plan to buy gift cards this holiday season, avoid the worst gift cards and consider these picks instead.
1. Amazon gift card
It's hard to go wrong with a gift card from the retailer that ranks as the favorite consumer e-commerce website -- Amazon.com. Versatility and range are big pluses of this gift card.
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"You can buy almost anything on Amazon," said Hunter. You can also purchase gift cards in any amount ranging from $1 to $2,000, so it's a great option for budget-conscious buyers and big spenders alike.
Additionally, Amazon gift cards have no fees and never expire. You can send a plastic gift card by mail with free one-day shipping, print out a card, or send an e-gift card that can be animated or personalized with a photo by email or text message.
2. Wal-Mart gift card
A Wal-Mart gift card is a good bet because the big-box retailer sells a wide variety of products online and in thousands of locations across the country, said Kendal Perez, a savings expert for Coupon Sherpa. You can give an e-gift card worth from $5 to $200 or a plastic gift card valued between $10 and $1,000.
Not only can Wal-Mart gift cards be used in stores and at Walmart.com, but they are also redeemable at Sam's Club and Vudu.com. They have no fees and never expire. Plus, unlike with some gift cards, you can get your Wal-Mart cards shipped for free if you purchase them online.
As a bonus, gift recipients can easily resell unwanted cards. In fact, Wal-Mart gift cards have high resale values and typically fetch 90% of their face values based on prices listed on GiftCardGranny.com, said Perez.
3. Target gift card
A gift card from this big-box retailer is a good choice because Target sells such a variety of things, said Hunter. You can buy Target gift cards in the store, at Target.com, or at other retailers and purchase them in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,000 for plastic cards and $5 to $100 for mobile and e-gift cards.
Plastic gift cards bought online ship for free. And a physical card that hasn't been used can be returned for a refund in store with a receipt.
4. Best Buy gift card
A Best Buy gift card is great for electronics enthusiasts -- especially because Best Buy will match its competitors' prices, said Perez. Gift-card recipients can take advantage of that policy to make sure they're getting the best prices.
Best Buy gift cards can be purchased in stores and online in amounts ranging from $15 to $500. Plus, an e-gift card can be personalized with a message, photo, and video for free.
Plastic gift cards purchased online ship for free, and gift card orders of $25 or more qualify for free two-day shipping. And if you're a My Best Buy member, you'll get rewards points for gift-card purchases.
5. Nordstrom gift card
"Nordstrom is a great gift card for fashion lovers who want access to both midline and luxury styles," said Perez. Plus, the department store's free-shipping policy makes it easy for gift card recipients to use their cards for online purchases without worrying about paying extra for shipping. Gift cards can also be used at Nordstrom Rack, NordstromRack.com, and HauteLook.com.
Nordstrom gift cards can be purchased in stores, online, and by phone in amounts ranging from $5 to $2,000. Plastic gift cards bought online ship for free, and you can send e-gift cards by email. As an added benefit, Nordstrom donates 1% of its gift card sales to nonprofit organizations.
6. Kohl's gift card
Kohl's ranks as the No. 3 favorite retailer among consumers, according to the National Retail Federation's STORES magazine. Plus, it sells a range of products, from clothing to electronics and even furniture.
Kohl's gift cards can be bought and used in stores or at Kohls.com. Gift cards purchased online ship for free, and you can send an e-gift card if you prefer.
The one drawback of Kohl's gift cards is that the maximum value is limited to $100.
7. Macy's gift card
You can buy and use Macy's gift cards in stores and online in amounts ranging from $10 to $1,000. Plastic gift cards purchased online ship for free. However, you can also send an e-gift card with a personalized message.
Macy's sells a wide variety of products, so a gift card offers recipients plenty of options. From designer women's wear and cosmetics to men's watches and products for the home, the selection is sure to please even the pickiest of shoppers.
8. J.C. Penney gift card
You can buy a traditional J.C. Penney gift card in amounts ranging from $10 to $250 and an e-gift card in amounts ranging from $5 to $500. Each e-gift card can be personalized for free with a message, photo, or video. Plus, plastic gift cards purchased online ship for free.
J.C. Penney gift cards can be redeemed in stores and online. There are no fees, and the cards never expire.
9. Gap gift card
The biggest benefit of buying a Gap gift card is that it can also be used at Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta stores and websites. You can buy traditional or electronic gift cards in amounts ranging from $10 to $500.
Gift cards purchased online ship for free. And e-gift cards can be customized with photos and messages at no charge.
10. Starbucks gift card
"Everyone's favorite chain coffee shop represents a great gift card for java lovers since it comes with perks," said Perez. Starbucks gift card holders can register their cards and reload them for continued use and other benefits as part of the Starbucks Rewards program.
You can buy Starbucks gift cards in stores and online in amounts ranging from $5 to $500 or send them as e-gift cards by email.
Cards are accepted at most Starbucks locations in North America, including those in airports and grocery stores, and online. There are no fees, and the cards never expire.
11. Home Depot gift card
This home-improvement retailer's gift card can be bought and used in stores and online. You can buy plastic and electronic gift cards in amounts ranging from $25 to $500.
For your convenience, gift cards purchased online ship for free in two to 10 business days. And an e-gift card can be personalized with a message, photo, and video at no charge.
Home Depot gift cards are reloadable in stores and online, have no fees, and never expire.
12. Lowe's Gift Card
The primary difference between a Lowe's card and a Home Depot card is that the minimum amount you can purchase at Lowe's is lower -- $5. Lowe's gift cards can be purchased and used in stores and online.
Plastic cards purchased online ship for free, or you can send an electronic version with a personal message. However, would-be buyers should note that, unlike Home Depot, Lowe's doesn't include photo or video personalization with its cards.
13. Toys "R" Us Gift Card
For the kids on your holiday gift list, a Toys "R" Us gift card is ideal because it lets them choose from an array of toys, games, and electronics in the retailer's stores and on its website. A Toys "R" Us gift card can also be used at Babiesrus.com and in its stores.
Standard gift cards and e-gift cards can be purchased in amounts ranging from $10 to $1,000. Standard cards bought online ship for free, and recipients can check the balances of their cards online.
14. Fandango gift card
For movie buffs, Fandango gift cards are ideal because they can be used to buy tickets at several theaters, Hunter said. Cinemas that accept Fandango include AMC, Carmike, Cinemark, Regal, and many more. However, you do have to use Fandango gift cards to purchase tickets at Fandango.com or on the Fandango app rather than purchasing at theaters.
You can send an e-gift card or purchase a traditional gift card on Fandango.com, on Amazon, or at retailers such as Kroger, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens. However, there are shipping and handling fees for Fandango gift cards purchased at Fandango.com.
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.
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