With stores going out of business left and right, many of the gift cards given this holiday season will end up being for stores that close up shop right after Christmas if they don’t have a big enough holiday season. Gift Cards are risky business this holiday season with the economy being what it is and you don’t want to give a gift that turns out to be nothing more than wasted money.

I speak from personal experience as my husband and I had just been gifted $75 in Bennigan’s gift certificates when they went out of business. We ended up having to sell them on eBay (they were still good at Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses which don’t exist in our area, lest you think we were selling useless cards) but we sold them for $30, meaning that additional $45 was just a casualty of war.

With the most recent store collapses, Linens and Things and Circuit City have said that they will still accept gift certificates (but you better use them quickly) but Sharper Image would not, leaving people holding Sharper Image gift cards out of money and out of luck. As this situation is going to become an all too familiar one this holiday season, avoiding gift cards this holiday season is the better idea.

If you feel like you must give a gift card, nearly all major banks offer Debit Card Gift Cards. These cards can be used anywhere where credit cards are accepted so that you won’t be leaving the person you gift them to high and dry. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express all offer then. Keep in mind, however, that these are incredibly hard to use all of (especially in restaurants) and can be very frustrating for the person you gave them to. If you have a weird aversion to giving cash or a check, they are an option, but if at all possible, cash or check would be much easier for the recipient to actually use. I do understand that some people don’t like giving a check or cash, however, so, in that case, these are a better option. (I hate those debit card gift cards but more on that in a future post).

Now if, as you are reading this, you already have a gift card in your hand that you either do not want, cannot use or if the store is going out of business, you may want a pay a quick visit to Gift Card Rescue. This site allows you to either sell your unused cards outright for cash or to trade them for other gift cards that you might actually use. Even if you only get a fraction of the value of the card, it is certainly better than nothing!

It’s going to be a weird holiday this year for a number of reasons. Don’t make it even harder on your friends and family by given them a gift they won’t be able to use!