Three out of four Americans are now “aware” of gift cards and nearly 50 million adults have purchased such cards over the past year. With consumers jittery about venturing far from home and somewhat value conscious this year, it could be a banner year for pre-paid cards or gift cards. According to a survey commissioned by First Data’s ValueLink service and conducted by TNS Intersearch’s Express Omnibus, more than 63 million adults have received gift cards in the past 12 months. Among the three-quarters of consumers aware of gift cards, 44% said they were “very” or “somewhat likely” to purchase as many as four gift cards in the next 12 months with an average value of $44. The research also found the most popular values for purchased cards were $20, $25 and $50, although a majority, 71%, prefer a card with an open-end capability that allows the buyer to determine the dollar amount. Birthdays and the Christmas holiday dominated the list of occasions and reasons people purchased or received an electronic gift card. The gift card band wagon has been getting crowded this fall as Bank of America and Discover have recently jumped on. Also, KeyBank recently unveiled a branch-instantly-issued prepaid MasterCard. Last month a New Zealand firm unveiled new gift card technology in the USA, which features an actual display of the card’s monetary value directly on the front of the card. If you are considering the purchase of a gift card make sure you determine if any processing fees or expiration dates apply. Also determine how leftover balances, if any, will be handled.