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Why gift cards are increasing in popularity

We've all been there. A special event is coming up but you are struggling with gift ideas. Giving cash doesn't reflect the thought that goes into gifting and gift cards...

We've all been there. A special event is coming up but you are struggling with gift ideas. Giving cash doesn't reflect the thought that goes into gifting and gift cards may be perceived as impersonal. However, what if you found out that most people do, in fact, prefer gift cards? Almost 85 percent of respondents prefer to receive a gift card as a gift because it means they can get whatever they want, according to a recent survey by the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA).

More than 73 percent of consumers surveyed also noted they preferred to give a gift card when giving a gift from a group of people. For those of you who have had the pleasure of trying to pick-out a group gift among non-like minded people, you know a gift card is the best-case scenario.

Data from the survey supports additional industry reports from the National Retail Federation and analyst firm CEB Tower Group that there is continued consumer confidence in gift cards. More than 70 percent of respondents noted that they feel very satisfied when they receive a retail gift card as a gift, and more than 90 percent reported they plan to give one to three retail gift cards as gifts in the next three months, according to the survey.

With the holidays just around the corner, the results of the survey are likely music to the ears of busy shoppers everywhere. If you would like to add gift cards to your shopping list for this year, but aren't sure where to start, check out these simple tips from the National Retail Federation (NRF) to get the best gift card deal:

* Know gift card policies: Most retail gift cards have no expiration date or fee, so you don't have to worry about them ever expiring.

* Get real: Buy your gift cards from retailers you can trust to make sure you are getting the real-deal when it comes to gift cards.

* Look for deals: Especially around the holidays, many retailers offer incentives for gift card users, so make sure you pay attention.

* Make it personal: Get creative by combining your gift card with other elements to make it a more personalized gift.

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