Charity gift cards are supposed to make gift-giving easy, just like regular gift cards do. That way--the recipient gets an actual plastic card and can choose which charity to give the money to.
The thing is, you probably want all the money to go to the charity... But it doesn't.
Years ago Neill Bogan and his family decided to focus more on giving to charities instead: "You know, it just creates a little bit different sense of the holidays. Maybe a little bit more relaxed, maybe a little more from the heart."
Neill gives directly to the charities his family and friends prefer. That's a smart money move according to Consumer Reports Money Adviser - far better than giving the charity gift cards that are becoming more widespread. Greg Daugherty, Consumer Reports: "Here's how the cards work: you buy one from a charity network for as little as 10 dollars. Then the person you give it to can donate that money to the charity of their choice on the network's list."
But Consumer Reports warns there are catches with these cards.
They are generally non-refundable. Most charge fees just to buy the card. One 10-dollar card has a five-dollar fee. And the charity networks Consumer Reports checked out deduct 3 to 15 percent for administrative and other costs. Daugherty says, "Another problem is that many of these cards expire usually within a year. And any money that hasn't been donated just goes to the non-profit that sold you the card."
Writing a check, as Neill Bogan does, is best says Consumer Reports. He likes to give directly to poor farmers overseas. Bogan: "And it feels real good, you know, to give a tree, to give a cow. It's a lot of fun actually." Bogan feels so strongly about giving to charities, he works with his church to help others do the same.
Consumer Reports says if you're wondering whether a charity is a good one, there are several organizations that rate them. They are www.charitynavigator.org , www.charitywatch.org , and www.bbb.org the better business bureau.