Buy gift cards and cash in on deals

HOUSTON Last year holiday gift card sales fell nearly 6 percent and a recent survey says that was in large part because of confusion over fees, expiration dates and concerns that companies may go out of business. So this year, to get people to spend on gift cards some businesses are offering you bonus gift cards on your purchase.

Gift cards are the gift of choice for shopper Teri Peterson, because she says it's one size fits all.

She said, "It's easy, they won't return it."

"I have older teenagers, 20-year-olds and that's the perfect gift," explained shopper Julie Waters.

This year Waters will be taking advantage of gift card bonuses.

She said, "It's an incentive to get people to spend money."

At IHOP, if you buy a $25 gift card, you'll get a $5 bonus card. At Outback Steakhouse, if you buy a $100 gift card, you get a free $20 gift. Over at the Container Store, if you buy a $100 gift card, you'll get a $25 bonus card.

"I think those are great deals," Peterson said. "You can pick up those and then get the little bonus thing and stick it in somebody else's stocking stuffer or use yourself."

Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? Receive a $20 bonus card for every $100 in Maggiano's gift cards purchased. CVS is also getting in on the incentives. There if you buy a $25 gift card, you'll get a $5 bonus.

Super Saver Erin Labranda explained, "A lot of places, whether it's restaurants, toy stores, or hotels are all offering bonuses when you are buying gift cards for their places."

Libranda says the incentives are great and a result of a tough economy.

"These companies are trying to bring in business any way that they can," she said.

Some companies are being more creative with their incentives At Chick-Fil-A, the company is offering a free calendar with the purchase of a $20 gift card. The calendar comes with $32 worth of free food, including free sandwiches and free dessert. At Toys R Us, the company is offering gift cards for used video games and gaming systems.

"You pick out your game that you have online," Libranda said. "It'll tell you exactly how much it is worth and how much they will give you for it and they will turn around and mail you a gift card for it."

Toys R Us offers free shipping on trade-ins valued at $10 or more. Gaming systems are traded in-store only.

As always when buying any gift cards, read the fine print for expiration dates and fees.

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