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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The holiday shopping season may be over, but gift cards are a hot item year-round.

And now, the popular cards are safer and more personalized than ever before.

Michelle Livingston says she loves to give and receive them.

“They are the perfect gift. They give you what you want,” she said.

A recent Bankrate survey found 72% of gift cards have some sort of loss or theft protection.

“They want to make sure that if they buy that card for a loved one that, that person’s actually (going to) benefit instead of it being taken away by, you know, some criminals,” said Claes Bell with Bankrate.

And since one in four people lose their gift cards, many cards now let you register them, that way you can notify the issuer if they’re lost or stolen.

With some, you may even be able to recover the value.

There are also cards out there which allow you to create a secret personal identification number, or PIN.

“The biggest thing that we’ve seen is that some cards, general purpose cards mostly, have added the ability to add a customized PIN to the card so that would prevent a thief from being able to use your card so they wouldn’t be able to make a debit purchase. You see that on Visa and MasterCard branded cards,” Bell explained.

More retail companies are offering digital versions, according to GiftCards.com.

Experts say those are harder for criminals to swipe.

They’re delivered straight to your inbox and each purchase leaves a digital trail.

“You’re going to see a huge jump in sales of digital gift cards,” said Shelley Hunter with GiftCards.com.

But if you worry a gift card sent via email seems impersonal, more companies let you record audio and video messages to go along with them.

“So even though you’re not there to deliver the gift in person you can send your personality with it,” Hunter added.

You can even use apps to send gift cards right to the recipient’s phone.

“We’re used to using our phones to pay for things and gift cards is a natural progression of that,” Hunter said.

Whether by card, email, or phone, Michelle Livingston will take it.

“I’m gonna like it,” she said.

Bankrate found that only five percent of cards charge dormancy fees, but your best bet is to register a gift card the moment you get it and use it as soon as possible.

If a retailer goes out of business, you could risk losing the value of the card.

Lauren Pastrana

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