One thing you definitely want to avoid this Christmas is gift cards. When a company goes bust gift cards are rendered worthless and there is no way to get the money back. This year several high-street names have collapsed into administration, most recently Debenhams and the Arcadia group that includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, among other brands. People with gift cards for the Arcadia group are rapidly discovering how little control they have over spending their vouchers. The group has put a limit on gift cards so you can only use them to pay for 50% of purchases. “If you’re thinking of giving gift vouchers this Christmas, let this be a warning to you,” says MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis. With “so many retailers in trouble... give [people] money to spend... instead”.
Another option is Premium Bonds. You can now buy a bond for someone else for as little as £25. But the odds of winning have lengthened considerably from 24,500 to one to 34,500 to one. There have also been many administrative problems with National Savings & Investments (NS&I), the Treasury-backed bank that operates Premium Bonds, as we noted last week. After trying to buy Premium Bonds for his nephew, The Times’ James Coney was so bamboozled by administrative requests and an inability to get through on the phone that he gave up and said he was “not going to bother trying again”.
If you want to give cash, your safest choice may be to make a bank transfer to your recipient. For children, ask the parents if they have a junior individual savings account (Jisa) you could pay your Christmas present into. If they don’t yet have a Jisa, note that Coventry Building Society is currently offering the best rate on a cash Jisa: 2.95%. These accounts can’t be accessed until the child turns 18, however, so an investment Isa is likely to deliver better returns over the long term.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
If you want to give something more exciting than cash, consider whisky, says Sam Brodbeck in The Daily Telegraph. Estate agent Knight Frank’s 2020 wealth report reveals which luxury investments have performed the best. “Over the past decade it is rare whisky that comes out on top – with prices up more than sixfold, some way ahead of the rest of the pack.” The report found that rare whisky prices have increased by 564% over the past ten years, compared with 141% for art or 77% for coloured diamonds. The most valuable whisky comes from the Macallan distillery: “its bottles keep breaking records”. One 28-year-old funded a deposit for a house after he “cashed in his collection of Macallan single malts for £44,000”. His father had spent £5,000 buying the bottles for birthdays.
Finally, don’t forget the oldest of all Christmas gifts: gold. Gold has appreciated by 34% over the past decade and by 400% in 20 years. The Royal Mint is selling gold bullion with prices starting at £75 for a one-gramme Christmas gold bar.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
King Charles banknotes to enter circulation in June
New banknotes featuring the King will enter circulation on 5 June – here’s what they will look like and what you need to know about your old notes.
By Katie Williams Published
Metro Bank to slash 5.22% savings rate for current customers- what’s the next best alternative?
Metro Bank is set to cut the rate on its best buy instant access saver for existing customers. Is there an alternative on the market and should you switch now?
By Vaishali Varu Published
Britain’s stifling tax burden
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement will see the tax burden rise in each of the next 5 years.
By Emily Hohler Published
Brace for a year of tax rises
The government is strapped for cash, so prepare for tax rises. But it’s unlikely to be able to squeeze much more out of us.
By Matthew Lynn Published
Lock in high yields on savings, before they disappear
As interest rates peak, time to lock in high yields on your savings, while they are still available.
By Ruth Jackson-Kirby Published
How to cut the cost of home insurance
Home insurance policies are becoming increasingly expensive, but there are several ways you can keep costs down.
By Ruth Jackson-Kirby Published
Are lifestyle funds still fit for purpose?
Lifestyle funds have failed to do what they were supposed to do – shield savers from risk in the run-up to retirement.
By David Prosser Published
Act now to bag NatWest-owned Ulster Bank's 5.2% easy access savings account
Ulster Bank is offering savers the chance to earn 5.2% on their cash savings, but you need to act fast as easy access rates are falling. We have all the details
By Marc Shoffman Last updated
Moneybox raises market-leading cash ISA to 5%
Savings and investing app MoneyBox has boosted the rate on its cash ISA again, hiking it from 4.75% to 5% making it one of top rates. We have all the details.
By Ruth Emery Published
October NS&I Premium Bonds winners - check now to see what you won
NS&I Premium Bonds holders can check now to see if they have won a prize this month. We explain how to check your premium bonds
By Kalpana Fitzpatrick Published