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    Visa, American Express Top Searches for Branded Gift Cards

    Consumers want gift cards to be universally accepted, according to analyst firm Hitwise.

    NEW YORK -- Online searches for the term, "gift cards," in the week ending Dec. 15 increased 14 percent over the same period in 2006, while Visa and American Express were the top two branded gift cards searched for last week, according to online research firm Hitwise and cited by Marketingcharts.com.

    Other high ranking branded gift card searches included Wal-Mart, iTunes, Best Buy, Target, MasterCard and Hess, according to Hitwise. The top nonbranded gift card searches included such terms as free, discount, restaurant, gas, charity and prepaid.

    "Gift cards are popular with shoppers again this holiday season as they become increasingly more socially acceptable than traditional gifts," Heather Dougherty, director of research for Hitwise, told MarketingCharts.com.

    "One big trend this year is that consumers are looking for the gift cards that are more universally accepted across a variety of merchants, such as Visa or American Express, to provide recipients with the options to spend their cards wherever they need, which this year could include necessities like groceries or gas," she added.

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