Black Friday 2011: Gift Cards Are In Season, Says New Poll

A new poll says the two out of every three Americans will give out gift cards as gifts this Christmas - and most Americans prefer to receive them.

According to the TD Bank Holiday Shopping Poll released today, 64 percent of Americans say they plan to purchase a gift card this year.

The poll also forecasted that Americans will spend an average of $640 on gifts this season.

“With the majority of consumers looking to spend the same as last year, gift cards are a perfect option to keep holiday spending in check," said Nandita Bakhshi, Executive Vice President, Head of Products, TD Bank.

"Giving a gift card reduces shopping stress, you spend exactly what you intend to, and are less likely to get caught up in the season and spend more money than planned."

Gift cards come in a variety of formats. Some appeal to people who want to give practical gifts such as gas, groceries, bills, but don’t want to give their loved ones cash or a check. Others give gift cards for luxury items, knowing that the gift’s recipient will make a better selection on, say, an album or video game, than he or she could.

The poll said that 31 percent of those who receive gift cards plan to use them on everyday expenses.

Over 60 percent of people haven’t saved at all for the holidays this year, the study found. Using gift cards as gifts is an excellent way to stay on a budget, experts say.

Popular gift cards are those for electronics and media stores; Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy all sell gift cards at record rates during the holiday season.

Some consumers choose to gift a Visa or American Express prepaid card. The flexibility of those cards ensures that gift receivers can use the money on what they value most.

Still, some say that holiday gift giving shouldn’t be about covering everyday expenses, but about buying the little luxuries in life and taking the time to indulge.

Ultimately, the gift giver who hands out a gift card would be wise to explore all their options and tailor a gift card to each recipient.