Last Updated Dec 14, 2010 11:38 AM EST
But there's no reason why you have to pay full price. A number of websites are offering discounts ranging anywhere from mingy to hefty on cards from leading retailers. Most of the cards have been traded in by consumers who couldn't use them, or left unused balances.
At Plastic Jungle right now, you can get a $100 Macy's electronic gift card (for online use only) for $89 or a Lucky Brand Jeans card with $72.96 remaining on it for $62.02, a 15 percent discount. ABC Gift Cards is currently offering a $100 Ashley Stewart Gift Card for $88 and 8 percent off Abercrombie cards. GiftCards.com is another site to try; when I looked, it stocked cards from Coldwater Creek, Petco and Victoria's Secret, among others. Another site, Gift Card Granny, allows you to search across several discount gift card sites and even includes listings on e-Bay. I found $100 Callaway golf equipment cards on sale for $65 and $100 Borders cards for $85.
Not all stores are available on all sites at all times. You may have to hunt to find what you want. And some of the cards' odd balances, say $257.34 or $533.06, were probably not the round number or the more modest amount you had in mind. But you can buy a large denomination card at, say, Ann Taylor, and then use it to buy presents for a batch of women on your gift list.
Another way to do good while doing yourself some good: take advantage of gift cards now being offered by chain restaurants. For example, Fuddruckers will give you a $5 bonus gift card with a $25 purchase of gift cards. Outback Steakhouse will grant you a $20 card with a purchase of $100 in gift cards. Before you bite at these deals, though, you should know that when you visit Fuddruckers with your $5 card, you'll probably wind up spending $30.
More on MoneyWatch
- 9 Toys to Avoid This Holiday Season
- Avoid These Office Buzzwords
- How Tax Refunds Go to Inmates without Income
- What's Your Biggest Consumer Complaint?