Gift cards: Use 'em before you lose 'em

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Last year, a survey found shoppers spent about a third of their holiday gift budget on gift cards. This year, 73 percent of consumers say they buy gift cards for the holidays, which means most of us get gift cards as presents. Gift cards are fun because you get the gift you buy, plus guilt-free shopping.

But what we do after opening those gift card presents can be a "make or break" deal for some of those cards. You should put your gift cards in your wallet or near your computer if you are an online shopper.

"The longer you hold on to a gift card, the higher the likelihood you will forget to use it, or misplace it, and this is the time of year when stores start going out of business as well," says Shelley Hunter, the "Gift Card Girlfriend" at giftcards.com. "So whatever cards you received during the holiday season, put them in your wallet and make a plan to use them right away."

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney spoke with shopper Amy Studer. She said that she gave gift cards and got gift cards this holiday season.

"I think I am worried I am going to misplace or lose them, so I love her advice," Studer told Finney. "I put them in my wallet or next to my computer and use them right away."

Michael Patterson was shopping in Union Square when he chatted with 7 On Your Side. He told us he got a gift card as a present and has already spent it.

"I lose things often," he says, "so I said I might as well spend it while I can find it."

The Gift Card Girlfriend reminds us that store cards cannot expire or add fees in California, but there are cards that can do that.

"Bank-issued gift cards like Visa, Master Card and American Express, do have expiration dates and -- more importantly -- fees will start collecting after a year of non-use," she says. "Often times people will hold on to it for a rainy days only to find fees have affected the balance of the gift card."

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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