College students and credit cards aren't always the best mix, as recent history proves. Perhaps that's why more parents and their college-bound kids will buy gift cards this year than ever before. As a back-to-school staple, they offer plastic cash without the pitfalls of credit card use.
A new survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found more than 30 percent of parents with college-bound kids will supply them with gift cards and prepaid cards. That's an increase of 2 percent over 2010 and an excellent predictor of sales to come for the holiday season.
What's even more surprising is the total students and their parents anticipate spending on these handy pieces of plastic, totaling $3.4 billion for an increase of nearly $1 billion from last year. The average expenditure clocked in at just over $60.
That $60, however, will stretch even further with discount gift cards. Websites such as Gift Card Granny allow consumers to buy gift cards and save up to 35-percent off face value when purchased online. The site offers cards for everything from Domino's pizza to Bed Bath and Beyond dorm-room decor. Students can also check their card's balance at the site so there are no nasty surprises at checkout.
Those looking for more localized gift cards can find them on Craigslist or eBay and such swap sites as SwapAce.
Internet Retailer noted online gift card sales alone are expected to grow at 29 percent for the next four years. In addition, the increasing popularity of mobile gift cards plays well with this plugged-in generation. The class of 2014 can access discount e-cards while shopping and have them scanned at the register. This technology has made gift card buying and use much easier, with 42 percent of merchants currently offering an e-card option, according to Bankrate.com.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satelite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.