Steven Gimbel of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania discourages last-minute shoppers from purchasing gift cards because they primarily serve as an easy way out for the shopper.
"To avoid giving bad gifts, people have turned more and more to gift cards," Gimbel said in a statement.
Gimbel said people need to remember why they are giving a gift. People are often fearful that despite their good intentions, a loved one will be disappointed with their gift, so they opt instead to buy a gift card to allow the recipient to "get what they want."
"Giving a good gift is difficult because it requires thought on several different levels," Gimbel said. "A good gift is also something that the recipient will use to make their life better and something someone wants. A great present is one that displays an unspoken intimacy."
Gimbel's advice is to get a gift -- not a gift card -- even if the gift ends up to be a bad one.
"The gift card is about the giver, not about the recipient," Gimbel said. "When you give a gift that plays to someone's personality, the gift says, 'I don't quite get it, but I know it's important to you and I want you to know I am happy to try to nurture that aspect of your life.'"