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Call it a hard candy holiday season, but this year almost half of consumers surveyed plan to use any cash they are given as holiday gifts to help meet expenses like groceries, gas and other household expenses.“The importance and desirability of cash cannot be underestimated. More than half of the consumers we surveyed (53%) know someone who wants cash as a gift to help cover daily expenses this holiday season,” said Jorge Consuegra, senior vice president for Western Union, which conducted the survey. “The best gifts are the ones most wanted and needed, and this year, that gift is cash.”While 52% of those surveyed expect to send a gift to someone who they will not be seeing in person this holiday season, six in ten Americans said the cost of shipping gifts, especially during the holiday season, was too high. A majority on those surveyed said they were planning to skip Black Friday sales that were held last month, citing crowded stores as a discouraging factor. Although retailers reported large crowds coming early for door buster sales, early retail reports indicate overall sales were below expectations.Western Union reported the survey also showed widespread consumer acceptance of prepaid cards. The company said that it found that 69% of American consumers are planning to give gifts of cash, check or gift cards to friends and family this holiday season. Furthermore, 79% of consumers would prefer to receive a gift card this holiday season that could be used anywhere traditional credit cards are accepted.–[email protected]

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