Saying "No" to Gift Cards

December 18, 2009
Michael Sheehan

Rather than give hidden-fee laden gift cards that expire, think about buying stock. You can do this the old-fashioned way by transferring stocks you own to the person on your gift list, but there are other options that are more tangible – and more fun.

Gift cards are a great idea - for the sellers. According to some estimates, billions of dollars in gift-card money never gets used, but the seller still gets to pocket the cash. A better idea for holiday gift-giving may be cash. Cash never expires and doesn’t come with hidden fees that erode its buying power. And under the tax laws, you can give up to $13,000 a year to each person on your gift list without incurring a gift tax.

If you think giving cash is somewhat tacky, think about giving stock. You can do this the old-fashioned way by transferring stocks you own to the person on your gift list, but there are other options that are more tangible — and more fun. At OneShare.com you can get a framed stock certificate for a single share in any one of about 200 companies. The prices vary according to the cost of the stock and transfer fees are extra. You’ll also pay more for the frame and you can choose to add a personalized plaque for another $10. Costs range from $83 for a single framed share of Ford Motors with a personalized plaque to more than $1,200 for a framed share of Google. If your budget runs somewhere between $100 and $150, you have a wide range of choices, including companies like Microsoft, Dell, Disney, and Harley-Davidson.

If you have an stock market history fan on your list, a stock certificate from Scripophily.com (www.scripophily.net) might be just the right gift. From defunct Wall Street brokers like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to extinct dot.coms like DrKoop.com, you have hundreds of outdated stock certificates to choose from, and custom framing is available. The certificates have no value, except as collectibles -- or as handsome additions to a den or office wall.