Buying gift cards online is a great way to shop for anyone who doesn't keep regular hours, doesn't like shopping at traditional stores or malls and simply wants something a little different for that stocking stuffer this year for that someone special.

Holiday gift cards have gained huge popularity over the last few years, as they become easier and easier to use.  It was not that long ago, that gift cards were simply referred to as gift certificates and had all kinds of strings attached, such as expiry dates and no change, meaning you had to spend over the certificate amount to really enjoy the gift, and the stores that gave these out were very limited.

Many people used to think getting a gift card was an easy way out of having to go shopping.  But now that there are so many places you can get them and so many online stores that offer them, they are now a welcomed gift.

But now gift cards, once loaded with funds, can be reloaded or used a few times (depending on how generous you were when loading the card) until used up.  Or you can also purchase "virtual" cards that can be used online for those avid online shoppers on your list this year.  This would make a perfect stocking stuffer for them.

If you have chosen to give one of these as a gift this year, then here are a few simple rules to follow so that you see a smile on their face when they open their stocking this year!Buying Gift Cards OnlineCredit:

Choose the Right Store - Make sure if you are buying gift cards online or in the physical store, that it is for a store they actually will use.  If you are not very close to this person, then consider giving them a general "visa" gift card that can be used anywhere.  You don't want to be giving them cards for clothing stores that they never visit for example.

Take note of their favourite shopping sites online for example.  If they like itunes, or books or shop in online clothing stores, see if you can get them to spill the beans and then you can check to see if that store carries an online gift card (most do).

Avoid companies that are Not Doing Well - You don't want to be getting them a gift card for a store that is about to go belly up.  Do a bit of research.  If a store has been in the news for financial difficulties, beware of buying gift cards from there.  We made that mistake last year.  We wanted to give a gift that was a bit different and purchased a "introductory flight" at a local airport flight school, only to find out it went belly up 3 months later before she had a chance to even use the gift.

Most stores tend to have a online presence, and therefore should offer a gift card.  If you shop early, many will mail you an "actual" card to be used in the store or online, while other stores that do most of their business online such as music sites, will offer a virtual card for them to use while shopping online. 

In many cases it will be sent to the recipient via their email and a gift announcement, but you can print the confirmation of the gift (many sites will offer a printable certificate)  and use it as a stocking stuffer.

Visa Holiday Gift Cards - If you are just not sure which store they like, and you simply want to let them go shopping, then consider a visa card that is preloaded with funds that can be used at any store that accepts credit cards.  These work just like credit cards, except it was funded by you as a gift.  Many teenagers love these for gifts.

Adventure gift cards - There are a few sites that are gaining popularity, especiallyUnique Gift CertificatesCredit: in Canada.  One is where you can match up the person with an experience instead of items as a gift.

If you have someone on your list, who just doesn't want anymore "things" in their home to collect dust, and basically has everything, then consider getting them an adventure gift.  It could be everything from skydiving, ziplining and adventure, to having a chef cook for them and more!  It all depends on the type of experience you are looking for and how fat your wallet is.

So, if you are thinking of buying gift cards online this year, then why not venture out there and find something a little different?  Why not consider an experience rather than more "things"?

Consider venturing away from the traditional big box stores for gifts this year, and check out some of the sites that are offering great experiences?

Vacation Certificates - You can do all your shopping online now, and another great idea for that stocking stuffer is to prepay an exciting vacation.  Who wouldn't like a getaway for a gift?  You could even plan a great weekend away or around home by checking out any local attractions, such as ski hills, indoor events, concerts and more and purchasing gift certificates for these events and places.

Local Attractions - Even the bowling alleys have gift cards nVisa Holiday Gift CardsCredit: morguefile.comow, so you can plan an entire day or weekend with gift cards and use these as stocking stuffers for a great gift idea this year.  Dinner and a movie, or lunch and bowling, or a day of skiing or indoor swimming or a gift my kids used to like getting was a day with the go-karts. 

Whatever you think they like to do, chances are their is a gift certificate or card you can purchase online.  This way the gifts are more personalized, which was one thing many people didn't like about gift cards. 

So, get a head start on your shopping this year, and consider buying gift cards online, print off the confirmation and use it as a stocking stuffer, then watch their reaction when they open it.