The post office has a green light to try selling gift cards.
Pre-paid cards have become one of the most popular gift items and postal officials said in January they want to do more than just deliver them to the lucky recipients. The independent Postal Regulatory Commission approved a test of the postal sales plan on Thursday.
The post office says the proposal calls for a two-year test, with about 2,000 post offices selling cards issued by companies such as American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa. It will start in June.
The test would be limited to sales at postal retail offices and the agency's website, and if the initial test works out, it would be expanded to several thousand additional post offices.
The National Retail Federation estimates that more than three-quarters of consumers purchase at least one gift card during the holiday season.
The cards the post office plans to test, known as "open loop" cards, can be used with any business that accepts cards from the issuing organization.
Current plans call for sales of fixed amount cards of $25 and $50 value, plus variable-value cards where the buyer can designate the amount at between $26 and $100. In addition there will be a fee of $4.95 for a fixed amount card or $5.95 for a variable one. The cards will have to be purchased from a clerk.
The post office said it may also decide to test so-called "closed loop" cards that are specific to one merchant, but plans for that have not been completed.
Postal Service: http://www.usps.com