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Give the gift (certificate) of warmth this year

Connie Prater

Looking for a last-minute holiday gift for the guy or girl who has everything? How about a little heat?

Our articles about how high winter heating bills will stretch family budgets in 2008 suggest many people may have to borrow money or use credit cards to pay utility bills. The Energy Information Administration estimates that some areas of the Northeast may pay as much as 30 percent more this winter to heat their homes.

We found that some utility companies around the country are offering gift certificates. You purchase a gift certificate and send it to a friend or family member and they can send it in with their next payment to help defray the cost of heating their homes. Some utilities offer the option of crediting the customer’s account for the amount of your gift. They may need the recipient’s customer account number and their exact address.

Give a HUG
Equitable Gas in Pennsylvania says: “Warm the home and heart of an Equitable Gas customer this holiday season with a special HUG – a Holiday Utility Gift certificate! Help family and friends pay their next month’s gas bill by purchasing an Equitable HUG certificate starting as low as $20.”

A quick Google search also found that Alliant Energy, which serves 1 million electric and 420,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, also sell gift certificates. LaClede gas in Missouri and Columbia Gas of Ohio also offer them.

The fine print
Of course, pay attention to the fine print. Look for expiration dates or other restrictions that limit use.
From what we’ve heard from readers struggling with huge utility bills, a gift certificate to help heat homes could be the warmest season greeting you can give.

Know of others offering utility gift certificates? Let us know. Post them here.

See related: “Poll: Gas, oil prices may drag down ’08 economy“, “Poll: Millions will borrow to pay heating bills in ’08“, “More utilities allow credit card payments“, “List: Utilities that accept credit cards

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