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Pogue’s Basics: Money - The kind of gift card everybody loves

David Pogue
Tech Critic

The problem with giving people movie-theater gift cards is that they might not be moviegoers. The problem with giving someone a Starbucks card is that they may not drink coffee. The problem with a Macy’s card is that they may not live near a Macy’s.

Here’s a little tip: Give your loved one a gift card that’s redeemable anywhere. Any store, any restaurant.

And that would be prepaid Visa cards. You can get them at drugstores, gas stations, convenience stores, banks, and grocery stores.

But you can also get them online. At GiftCards.com, for example, the card costs $3 or $4 extra, but you can have them printed with a photo of your choice, which makes them a much more personal gift.

The beauty of prepaid Visa cards is that you can use them as regular credit cards, to spend wherever you like. They’re as universal as cash. (Actually, more universal, since you can spend your Visa card on the Web, too.) And yet they don’t have the impersonal, “I didn’t put much effort into this” feel of an envelope full of bills.

They don’t expire, and there are no fees. How great is that?

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