Once considered a last-resort gift, gift cards are now the most requested gift of the holiday season. In fact, a National Retail Federation survey found 61 percent of consumers want a gift card this holiday year.
So, you might be thinking you can’t go wrong if you get gift cards for the people on your holiday gift list. However, it depends on the card.
There are several types of cards you should avoid buying because they have restrictions that make them difficult to use, purchase fees or are issued by stores that are struggling financially. See which gift cards you should avoid buying so you can save your money this holiday season.
The restrictions on Ace Hardware gift cards make them difficult to use. For starters, you can purchase Ace Hardware gift cards on the retailer’s site, but they can only be used at participating locations — not online. And cards purchased online are only available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100. Gift cards purchased in Ace Hardware stores are available in any amount between $5 and $250.
The cards aren’t reloadable, and you can’t check your balance online — you have to call. These gift cards also have expiration dates, but stores will honor the cards if they have a remaining balance.
Avoid gift cards from this retailer because it filed for bankruptcy in the spring. Although a group of investors bought Aéropostale out of bankruptcy in September, it looks like the retailer will have more than 200 stores instead of 800 pre-bankruptcy, reported Fortune in October. The good news: Mall developer Simon Property Group believes the retailer could bounce back with more than 500 stores, reports Fortune.
Still, you might not want to chance giving someone a card that will be difficult to use because of fewer store locations. If you do get an Aéropostale gift card for someone on your list, make sure a location still exists near the recipient.
American Apparel recently filed for bankruptcy protection — for a second time, reported The Wall Street Journal in November.
So even though an American Apparel gift card might seem like a good choice for the fashionistas on your gift list, don't risk giving someone a gift card that might be hard to use because of the retailer's uncertain future.
American Express charges a $3.95 purchase fee on its website for gift cards, which is a strike against it for the purchaser. Plus, it’s only available in set amounts starting at $25. Personalized cards are available in any amount between $25 and $3,000.
However, there are no fees after purchase. The funds on the card don’t expire, but the card will have a valid thru date. If the recipient wants to keep making purchases with their available balance after that date has passed, that card will need to be replaced.
A gift card for auto parts retailer AutoZone might seem perfect for any car enthusiast on your gift list. But, the maximum amount you can load to a gift card is $200. Other retailers that sell automotive parts might offer a higher maximum amount. Lowe's maximum limit is $500, for example.
An eBay gift card gives recipients access to a range of products. And it can be purchased online at eBay.com — either an electronic or classic card version — or at retailers such as supermarkets and drugstores.
However, recipients must use PayPal to purchase items listed on eBay.com. So, they would have to create a PayPal account to redeem an eBay gift card.
If you happen to come across a Golfsmith gift card, resist the urge to buy it for the golfer on your list. The retailer is closing 59 locations nationwide, and only 30 will remain open. And according to its website, closing locations will no longer accept Golfsmith gift cards. Instead, consider buying a Golf Galaxy gift card.
This is another retailer whose gift card you should avoid, said Kendal Perez of CouponSherpa.com. In an April release, Sears Holdings announced the closing of 68 Kmart stores over the summer. So if you buy a gift card to this retailer, make sure the recipient is near a location.
A Logan’s Roadhouse gift card might seem like a good option for steak lovers on your gift list, especially considering that the restaurant chain is offering a free $10 bonus gift card with the purchase of a $50 card.
But it filed for bankruptcy protection in August and plans to restructure its operations and close 18 locations, both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported. So, you might not want to risk giving someone a gift card for a restaurant chain that could be closing its location where the recipient lives.
A MasterCard gift card is great for the recipient because it can be used everywhere a debit MasterCard is accepted. But, there’s a fee to purchase one, and it can vary depending on the card's value and/or where you get a MasterCard gift card.
Ross Dress for Less
You can buy a Ross Dress for Less gift card on the retailer’s site, but you have to pay $1.95 for shipping and handling or $4.95 if you want a personalized greeting card. Plus, you can’t use the gift card online because Ross doesn’t sell merchandise on its site.
Sears also seems to be struggling. In an April press release, Sears announced 10 store closings. So, purchasing a gift card to this retailer might be risky, said Perez.
Although Sears sells a range of products — from tools to appliances to clothing — it can’t compete with Amazon, Target, Walmart and other retailers on products and pricing, added Perez. You might be better off getting a gift card from one of those retailers instead.
If you want to give someone a gift card with a lot of flexibility, a Visa gift card is a good choice. You can purchase one through some banks, at retailers and online at sites such as GiftCards.com. However, a Visa gift card can be a bad deal for the buyer because there’s an additional purchase fee, said Perez.
Keep Reading: The Best Gift Cards to Buy This Holiday Season
“Paying more than the face value of a gift card is a bad deal,” she said. The fee can vary depending on where you buy the card and the card's value. For example, the fee ranges from $2.95 to $6.95 at GiftCards.com.
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.