NEW YORK — Customers who give students prepaid cards to help meet back to school expenses will have a chance at a free gift for doing so, according to the American Express card brand.

The company announced an in-store gift card promotion last week that will give consumers a $25 free American Express gift card when they purchase two other AMEX gift cards, fill out a rebate form and send it in.

American Express launched the promotion during what it called the second busiest shopping season of the year. Back-to-school and back-to-college spending topped $50 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation's 2006 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys. Families spent an average of $527 on supplies for children in high school, and $1112 for incoming college freshmen.

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