10 most popular holiday gift cards

Generic Christmas gift card iStockphoto

My future father-in-law kindly requested a Dick's Sporting Goods gift card for Christmas. Easy enough, we thought, until we discovered that the card was actually on "back order" via the retailer's website. It wouldn't ship until after the holidays. We subsequently checked Walmart, Rite Aid and Target for the popular gift card, but no luck.  

This year, the most popular gift cards (i.e., the best-selling cards and the ones gift recipients can't wait to use) tend to be for stores that sell everyday goods, such as food and fuel, and stores that offer moderate prices. (Check out the 5 gift cards your friends don't want to see the least popular stores.)

According to GiftCardGranny.com, here are the top 10 most requested gift cards of 2011, in order: 

Walmart
Target
Amazon
Walgreens
Shell
McDonald's
Home Depot
Kohl's
Lowe's
Subway

But perhaps the most popular gift card of all is not tied to any specific retailer. A new holiday survey by TD Bank found that 51 percent of consumers want a Visa gift card more than any other option. Fewer than a third said they would prefer a store-specific card. The survey also found that 13 percent of recipients want a MasterCard gift card, while 10 percent would like an American Express gift card.

Meanwhile, we're still determined to find a Dick's Sporting Goods card. Our last attempt will be made on Christmas Eve, when we drive to the store itself in Lancaster, Pa. -- and beg. Alternately, we could buy something from Dick's and make sure to include a gift receipt. That way Dad can return it if he wants, and earn store credit. 

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    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter at @farnoosh.

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