By Lauren Pastrana

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The gift-giving season is almost upon us and gift cards continue to be a popular option.

These days, you don’t even need a physical card. You can send e-gift cards via email in just a few clicks.

So today’s “Lauren’s List” has a few gift card hacks you should know to get the most bang for your buck.

Stock Up in January
With people receiving possibly unwanted gift cards in December, many turn around and try to sell them in January. That means you can stock up at a discount. If you know you’re going to be shopping at a certain retailer and spending more than the amount of the card, it’s worth it to buy the cards on re-sale sites. Opt for the e-gift card version, because some sites will charge you for shipping of the actual gift card.

Trade In
Did you know you can go to Target and trade in your unwanted or low balance gift card for a Target one? The Target card value will be for a bit less, but if you’re not going to shop at the other stores, it’s a worthy trade-off. And if you have a card issued by a major credit card company like Visa or MasterCard, you can use it to pay for purchases on Amazon, even Amazon gift cards at full face value.

Cash Out
Although studies show that people typically overspend the value of their gift cards, there are times when you are left with a small balance on a gift card that you don’t want to carry around. Go ahead and ask if the gift card balance can be returned in cash. Some states require this by law, but the thing is, you won’t get that cash unless you ask for it. Retailers are only legally required to honor the request, but not necessarily offer that option.

Keep Track
Just like you’d keep tabs on your credit cards and cash, remember gift cards are money. Take pictures of the front and back of your cards with any access codes and PINs showing, just in case you lose the actual card. Also, keep track of the balance. Some retailers require you to tell them the exact amount to be charged to the card because if it doesn’t cover the entire purchase, it could be declined. I usually write the balance in Sharpie on a piece of tape and replace the tape as the balance changes.

Do you like receiving gift cards? Are you a gift card giver?

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If you have an idea for a future “Lauren’s List”, send it to lpastrana@cbs.com.

Lauren Pastrana

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