7 money saving tips before you buy a gift card

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Nina Pineda has 7 on your Side.

It's the ninth straight year that gift cards top the list as the most popular gift. This holiday alone we'll be stuffing stockings with nearly $26 billion in gift cards. Here are the top 7 do's and don'ts that could save you big bucks.

People forgot about them, they couldn't find anything they wanted, or they lost them. According to survey, last year alone about about $750 Million in gift cards went unused.

Tip 1: Don't wait to spend them.

"Run don't walk. Get in the car go to the mall and spend it. You'll have no muss no fuss no sweaty palms, what did I ever use that gift card," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports' Senior Projects Editor.

Tip 2. Register the card.

When you receive a gift card, Tod says take time to register the card, you'll have some measure of protection if it's stolen or lost, although you will have to provide some personal information to do so.

Tip 3: Buy direct from retailer.

Tip 4: Save on fees.

If you're giving gift cards buying them directly from the merchant. It will save you any third party fees. And watch out for those pesky purchase fees.

"Those usually come with a nominal fee maybe $3-$5. But you need to be aware of that," Marks said.

Tip 5: Buy from behind the register.

Tod recommends selecting gift cards from behind the register, if you buy one that's out in the open, inspect it first.

Tip 6: Watch for tampered cards.

"Anywhere where there's a scratch-off or reveal a code pin or verification. You want to make sure it's not tampered with," Marks said.

Thieves can scratch off to steal pin numbers and drain cards of value before you even buy them.

Tip 7: Check out re-selling.

What to do if you get a gift card you don't want? RE-SELL it for cash or trade it.

"There are several different sites that will buy your gift cards," said Andrea Woroch, a consumer expert. "But they all offer different rates. So it's important to compare to find the best pay out."

Woroch says websites like GiftCardGranny.com show you what a $50 Walmart card will fetch at various re-sellers, from a high of $46.51 to a low of $41 and change.

And remember the more popular the store, the higher the resell value. Consumer Reports found big box store gift cards re-sell for 90% of their value, but a $100 gift card from say Bass Pro shops, only fetched about $67.

Lastly, if you're buying a merchant specific gift card, try to get it from somewhere the recipient may actually like to shop.

"I know someone who got a gift card to Outback Steak House. They were Vegan. How many Blooming Onions can you buy?" Marks said.

And two more do's and don'ts. Don't buy a gift card from a retailer or restaurant in financial trouble. If it goes bankrupt your card will be useless.

And attach the receipt to the card. You'll want proof of purchase in case the recipient has any trouble using it.
And Do attach the receipt to the card. You'll want proof of purchase in case the recipient has any trouble using it.)
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