Stimulus checks equal free groceries

HOUSTON The stimulus package will see checks ranging from $300 to $600 sent to millions of Americans. And with that much money floating around, stores are offering incentives to buyers. But is it right for you?

Here's the deal, you get 10% in extra spending power, but there's a catch, you have to turn the entire check over to a single store. Before you say no way, ask yourself this, how does $120 in free groceries sound?

Like the rest of us, Della Richter has been seeing her grocery bills go up in the last few months. Now Kroger is giving her and everyone else a chance to get free groceries. It's a new program the company is offering next month.

"That will allow customers an extra $30, $60 or $120 when they turn in their tax refund or economic stimulus check in to Kroger gift cards," said Russell Richard of Kroger.

If you are getting a $300 stimulus check, you can use it to get a gift card worth $330. Those getting a $600 stimulus check can get a gift card worth $660 and families getting stimulus checks worth $1,200 can use it to buy a gift card worth $1,320.

Sears is offering the same deal in its stores, so what do shoppers think?

"I think it's great, I think it is an awesome idea," said Della Richter who was buying groceries.

The only catch, you have to spend the entire check at Kroger or Sears.

"I just have to see how everything else balances out with my other bills and checks, it's a possibility," Richter said.

It's the all or nothing part that Deana Turner form the Better Business Bureau says consumers need to consider before jumping at the ten percent extra offer.

"Are you going to be able to spend that much money at one place, because once you get a gift card, you are obligated to spend the money at that store," Turner said.

There are well documented problems with gift cards, some have fees, others lose value over time. Neither the Sears nor Kroger cards have those problems. If any other stores do get in on the stimulus checks for gift card band wagon, there are serious things to consider before buying.

"That means finding out if it expires after you have had it for a while, does it start losing its balance," Turner said.

Both the Kroger and Sears programs start in May and in Kroger's case, cash will work instead of the check itself. You can bring $300 in cash and get the $330 gift card. Kroger will also take credit cards as payment for the value added gift card, but you will not be able to buy alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets.

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