A Great Last Minute Gift Idea: Money

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Great Last Minute Money Gift Ideas

The most well-intentioned holiday gifts can fall flat. Ask Arlene Claudio of San Diego, who once received a 60-day gym membership from a health-conscious aunt.

“I opened it in front of my family. Everyone was quiet. I felt red,” says Claudio, 36.

That gift went unused. If you want to avoid the same fate for your presents, consider giving money. You have many options beyond greenbacks, but each comes with its pro and cons.

Money Gift Ideas

Crisp green bills make a great gift for everyone from your hairdresser to your niece. Only give an amount that you’re willing to lose, because cash is unprotected. Consider a limit of $500, the minimum emergency savings most people should have in an account. Look into safer money-giving options if you’re feeling extra generous this season.

“I would prefer cash just because I am able to choose what I spend it on. Many times I might need money to buy books or school supplies, or even a quick snack if I’m running late,” says Celeste Renteria, a student at University of California, Santa Cruz. “For many of those things, it would be hard to use a gift card when I’m on campus.”

Gift cards are as popular as ever, and those to department stores and restaurants top the list, according to the National Retail Federation.



Still, many go unredeemed. The advisory firm CEB Towergroup estimates that $973 million on gift cards went unused in 2015.

Prepaid debit cards are an alternative to traditional banking for people without checking accounts. With this option, you can give at the holidays and other special occasions like birthdays by adding money to the card.

Carefully read the terms of agreement. Some cards come with many fees, but low-fee options make a better gift. Depending on the issuer, the cardholder may be able to dispute errors and unauthorized transactions. On Oct. 1, 2017, new federal rules will allow cardholders to dispute any fraudulent charges or mistakes.

Checks are a safer option than cash. And, they can still put a smile on someone’s face when they are tucked in a card or a holiday stocking.



A  low-fee savings account can help a child save for college or other goals. Usually an adult — you or a parent — is required to be a joint owner of the account, so consult the parents if you want to go this route.

CDs usually function like a joint bank account, so you’ll need to loop in the recipient or a parent for this gift. They are a good fit for larger amounts of money that can help the recipient save for a goal he or she wants to reach within five years. For example, you can help a friend or loved one save for a home or a car. Make sure you get the best CD rates.

You have many options for giving money. The best choice represents the recipient’s interests and yours.

“I can laugh about it now,” says Claudio of her gym gift. “A few years after, I heard that my cousin was actually rigging the secret Santa so that none of our ‘overweight’ family members got [the aunt].”



Think carefully about your money gift so you delight your recipients — and maintain your gift-giving rep.

Money Gift Photo via Shutterstock
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