Gift cards aren't just last-resort purchases by baffled holiday shoppers anymore. They're becoming the presents of choice for Americans who want to help friends and relatives cope.
Spending on holiday gift cards may climb 25% to $35 billion this year, according to Archstone Consulting, boosted by cards that help people pay for food, fuel and medical care.
Gift cards that pay for gasoline at Exxon or Mobil stations, groceries at Wal-Mart stores or medical bills through health insurer Highmark Inc. will help increase the category to 5.9% of total U.S. holiday spending this year, according to Stamford, Conn.-based Archstone. That's up from 4.9% in 2006.