Gift Cards Changing Holiday Shopping Trends

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If you're celebrating the holiday season, chances are you'll be giving or receiving a gift card.

This holiday season, 75 percent of consumers are expected to buy at least one gift card this holiday season. Department stores, gas stations, even fast food restaurants sell gift cards and one local shopper says it's because they are easy.

"People can get what they want instead of taking something back. It makes it easier for me too instead of shopping for all these things I don't know what to get," said Nicole Gassnola, holiday shopper.

A recent survey named gift cards as the number one purchase this holiday season and their growing popularity is changing shopping trends all together.

"January sales have increased over the years and December sales have backed off slightly," said Joan Ghani, marketing director, Post Oak Mall.

American Express found that consumers who purchase gift cards will visit fewer stores, buy less actual merchandise and do more online shopping.

But, Cheryl Bridges with Texas A&M's Center for Retailing Studies says for retailers gift cards are a financial liability until a purchase is made.

"When they report sales, they do not report the sales of the gift card until the gift card is used," said Cheryl Bridges, Texas A&M Center for Retailing Studies.

That's why some gift cards are loaded with fees. There can be activation fees, maintenance fees and gift cards can also expire.

"A lot of gift cards do have fees after the first month you start losing money off the gift card so you really do need to watch the fine print," said Ghani.

For the most part gift cards are win win, they make gift giving easy, lower returns and extend the shopping season. So with only a few shopping days left until Christmas, and the first day of Hanukkah, a gift card could be the perfect plastic pass to holiday bliss.