$750 million in gift cards will go unused in 2014

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When is it OK to regift?

There are other problems aside from the 5-year timeline. Only 50% of small businesses last approximately 5 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If a business does go under, consumers (and their gift cards) may have to get in line behind a creditor who could be owed millions of dollars. And the 5-year minimum expiration date, while designed to give back more power to the consumer, may also encourage people sit on their laurels, increasing the likelihood that the cards will be forgotten or lost.

That said, they are still the most sought after gifts this holiday season with 37% of people preferring to receive them, according to a survey earlier this year of 5,000 shoppers by consultancy Deloitte LLP. Cash was the second most desired gift (35%), followed by clothing (32%) and books (26%). Helped by the popularity of digital gifts—like Starbucks coffee tokens advertised on Facebook—holiday shoppers will spend around $ 173 on gift cards, up from $ 163 last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Though gift cards don’t even require wrapping, they are practical and help prevent waste. Even so, there are certain rules of etiquette that should be adhered to by both the giver and receiver of such certificates. While a teenage child or even spouse might appreciate one, your grandmother or mother may not, says Pamela Eyring, the president of the Protocol School of Washington, a training school that focuses on cross-cultural and business etiquette. And it’s good manners to tell the giver what you bought, she adds.

Read: How much should I spend on a wedding gift?


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