By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — They’ve been at the top of gift lists for years, but will gift cards be on your shopping list this holiday season? As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us, new rules and new trends are making it easier to gift, or to receive.

Rather than searching the mall for the perfect holiday gift, millions of Americans will let friends and family, choose it themselves with a gift card.

In the past consumers complained about gift cards expiring or losing value before they could use them. When new federal laws for credit card companies went into effect in 2009 they applied to most gift cards too, so read the fine print on yours.

Janna Herron with says, “A lot of the terms and conditions will be found on the back of the gift card, and that will include any kind of fees that are associated with the gift card. They could be inactivity fees, purchase fees or maintenance fees.”

If that gift card sits in your wallet for awhile now you don’t have to worry about it expiring. According to Herron, “Funds on a gift card are good for five years. And if you reload those funds, those funds are good for another five years.”

Then, there’s the emerging trend of electronic gift cards, or e-cards. Herron says, “You click and send immediately to your recipient’s email and in some cases to their Facebook page or smartphone.”

In fact a recent survey found that found more than half of gift cards sold are now available electronically, perfect for those who forget the card when they hit the mall.

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