Warning: Do NOT buy these gift cards this holiday season

By: Mike Timmermann

Updated:

If you’re struggling to figure out what to get somebody on your Christmas list this year, money expert Clark Howard says there’s one thing you shouldn’t buy: gift cards.

The risk is just too high that the gift card will turn out to be worthless, according to Clark.

Why giving gift cards for Christmas is a bad idea!

RELATED: #1 secret to avoid overspending this holiday season

“There has never been a year that it has been more dangerous to receive or to give gift cards for restaurants and retailers,” Clark said. “Both industries are having a terrible time right now.”

Major retailers closed more than 5,000 stores in 2017. Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s are among the companies that closed some locations amid increased competition from Amazon.

Meanwhile, several mall-based chains, including The Limited, Wet Seal and American Apparel, shut down all of their stores.

Restaurants haven’t fared much better. Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and Joe’s Crab Shack are a few of the chains that also closed some locations — often without notice to workers and guests.

If you give someone a gift card and they don’t use it right away, they could be out of luck if the store goes out of business.

“Someone who knows me well gave me gift cards for an ice cream parlor that I really liked — past tense. When I finally went, it was closed and the money was gone,” Clark said.

Keeping up with the wave of bankruptcies and store closures is a lot of work, so Clark recommends that you steer clear of gift cards altogether — even prepaid cards from Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

People tend to have a hard time using every penny on those cards, plus there are typically fees to buy them.

“I have a card somebody gave me that still has $2.50 on it. Everywhere I go and try to use it, I get declined because I can’t find anything that’s less than $2.50,” Clark said.

The better gift this holiday season? Cash. There’s no expiration date and you can use it just about anywhere!

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