SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – The average person will buy five gift cards this year, spending over $ 250. If you’re more up to date, you’ll pocket some cash along the way. We used to give gift cards because we didn’t know what else to give, but not anymore. This year, gift cards are completely mainstream and are now repackaged, rebranded and rebated.

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Go to any supermarket and you will find racks and gift card displays. Pick a brand, pay the listed price and you’ve got a freebie. It works, but this year there are some strategies that can save you money and make gift cards more interesting. Let’s start by saving money.

This holiday season, gift cards often come with a bonus. 7 On Your Side went snooping around and found Barnes & Noble offering a free $ 10 gift card when you buy a $ 100 gift card. Applebee’s offers a ten dollar card when you buy one worth $ 50. Costco sells a $ 500 Hawaiian Airlines gift card for $ 449. Amazon also has deals, as do many other major retailers.

However, gift card girlfriend Shelley Hunter says there may be a catch.

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“What you need to know about promotional gift cards is that they can have expiration dates, so if you see a restaurant gift card and you get a free appetizer, or something like that Along with buying a gift card, be sure to check the dates on promotional gift cards, ”she said.

If you don’t check, you could lose all that free money. Shelley looked around and found a hundred bonus offers, she listed them on her website.

Next: how to give a gift card that someone really wants.

You can, after all, pick the wrong retailer. You received a card for a restaurant you don’t like, or a store where you don’t shop. Well now there is a money saving way to get around this problem.

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“We have traditionally had store or restaurant gift cards or gift cards issued by banks like Visa or MasterCard that you pay a little more money for,” says Shelley Hunter. “But right in the middle of this year, you’re going to find more multi-store gift cards; they’re redeemable at all stores and restaurants on the map, but you don’t have to pay extra for those cards.”

The groupings can be quite random. Cards sometimes mix hardware stores with restaurants, and electronics stores with clothing stores. Buy one of these cards and you are sure to buy the right one for your friend or family member.

Here’s the third tip: don’t overthink giving a gift card. People want them, they’re practical and can be green too. Buy a virtual card, send it digitally, and you can schedule exactly when the card will arrive. If that sounds a little too impersonal, Hunter has a suggestion.

“So the way you make a gift card look as intentional as it really is, is wrap it with that little extra something,” Shelley says, “So you go. put on a shoe store gift card with a pair of socks. . You’re going to put an electronic gift card with a pack of batteries. “

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Finally, last tip: gift cards aren’t just for giving! If you find an offer on a gift card, you can purchase the card and then use it to purchase the gift that you will give. 7 On Your Side’s Michael Finney did it himself – just ask the line of people behind him at Macy’s.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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