With the continued popularity of holiday gift card giving, this season’s hottest cards will likely be snatched up as quickly as those once-a-year homemade desserts at the family dinner table.

According to the 2007 U.S. Gift Card Consumer Insights Survey, birthdays and Christmas were the two most common occasions to give gift cards. In addition, more than half of Americans (61 percent) gave a gift card as a present.

But gift cards can bewell, boring, not to mention they can take a big chunk out of a holiday budget if not managed properly. First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce, works closely with retail stores, quick-service restaurants and banks to offer advanced gift card options. This year, the company is encouraging consumers to be more creative with Buying gift cards, while still keeping to their budget. Try these tips:

Think inside the box: It’s obvious when a gift is a card–the typical envelope in a stocking or tiny gift bag. Instead of the usual wrapping, try disguising the card by putting it inside another gift or by pairing it with similar items. For the avid movie watcher, sneak a movie rental gift card in a movie-themed bowl with popcorn and candy. Or use a gift card as an accessory, such as a music gift card with an iPod or iPhone to help get that music library started.

Keep a budget: Have fun with gift card giving but don’t go overboard. Gift cards can get pricey, so consider buying a prepaid debit card to control spending. It’s easy to overindulge when buying for loved ones. Buying a general-purpose prepaid card or a card from a favorite retailer can help manage how much is spent during a specific time period. Prepaid cards are also a smart way to teach young adults how to budget finances because they can help demonstrate spending limits.

Today’s prepaid cards are colorful, fun and offer a variety of options. They even give consumers options to properly manage budgets. While cards can seem “plastic,” there are creative ways to give them this holiday season without overstretching the purse strings. And wouldn’t it be great to give that unforgettable gift rather than giving the ordinary gift card?

To learn more about gift card options, visit a prepaid gift card store in the mall or a favorite retail store. To learn more about First Data and its prepaid card service offerings, visit www.firstdata.com. – Courtesy of NAPSI.

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