Relax, procrastinators. You don't have to resort to shopping for gifts at 7-Eleven on the night before the big holiday. The Internet has unwrapped several options for buying presents at the last minute.
Many popular online services sell gift cards toward subscriptions, digital goods or real goods. These can be bought in stores or, even better, with just a few clicks on your computer. Your friends and family members will likely appreciate this more than that V-neck sweater.
While those pastel-colored iTunes gift cards can be found near the checkout stands at supermarkets and retail chains, consumers can also print or e-mail their own by ordering through Apple Inc.'s online store.
For those with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the iTunes certificates will let them download music, movies, TV shows and apps including games. If your friend or family member doesn't own one of those devices, the credit can still be used to buy songs that are playable on a computer with the iTunes software. For a more personal touch, handpick the music you want to give. Full Special Report: Tech Gift Guide: 2012
Apple sells certificates that range from $15 to $100. A $25 gift card is enough to give someone a year of iTunes Match, which allows owners of multiple Apple devices to access their music library over the Internet without having to download songs to each of their gadgets.
ITunes cards aren't accepted at Apple retail stores. So don't expect to be able to use one toward an iPhone 5.
Couch potatoes might enjoy a subscription to Netflix Inc.'s streaming video service. That should be especially true for fans of actor Kevin Spacey or the sitcom “Arrested Development,” both of which will have exclusive runs on Netflix.
The movies and TV shows can be accessed from a computer, smartphone, tablet or a television connected to an Internet-enabled device such as Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii or some types of Blu-ray players. Many TVs with built-in online access can also play Netflix videos. The company doesn't sell gift certificates to its DVD-by-mail service.
Gift givers can Netflix Gift purchase streaming plans that range from $7.99 for one month to $95.88 for a year.
Pandora One Subscription
Fans of the Internet radio broadcaster Pandora Media Inc. are not necessarily longing to hear advertisements for Axe body spray. A Pandora One membership axes the commercials and reduces the “Are you still listening?” interruptions. It also unlocks higher-fidelity music and a desktop application that can be downloaded to a computer.
Target Corp. stores sell the gift cards, and last-second shoppers can Pandora One gift order online. A one-year plan costs $36.
Amazon Gift Card
With a giftcard to Amazon.com Inc., someone could use it to buy an e-book, a real book or a refrigerator. The retail giant seems to have just about everything, making this the most flexible option.
Customers can order a digital gift card ranging from 15 cents to $2,000. One idea: For $79, the recipient can get a year of Amazon Prime, which comes with a video streaming service similar to Netflix and free two-day shipping.
Like iTunes, customers can pick out specific songs or e-books they want to give. We know what you're wondering: “Fifty Shades of Grey” costs $9.99 for the Kindle. With the digital version, no one at the coffee shop will know what they're reading.
In time for the holidays, Facebook added a feature for purchasing gifts for friends. These aren't the cutesy digital stickers Facebook used to let users buy to put on a buddy's profile page. The inventory includes coffee, flowers, golf balls, magazines and stuffed animals delivered to someone's door.
While the gift won't arrive instantly like other options on this list, Facebook can post a message on a friend's wall letting that person know an item is on the way. If you don't see the gift option on your account, Facebook said it's working on expanding the feature to more users.
Looking to hook up a "FarmVille"-addicted friend with a gift card? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Facebook doesn't sell them on its website, except in bundles costing at least $250. If you don't need that many, Facebook Credits gift cards can be found in stores, including 7-Eleven, Best Buy and Radio Shack.
For fans of the popular music service Spotify Ltd., a subscription allows members to listen from a smartphone app, save music for offline access, eliminate the ads and improve sound quality.
E-card options range from $9.99 for a month to $119.88 for a year. And the recipient will never know you bought it at the last moment.