By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Gift cards are a convenient way for holiday shoppers to save time and reduce anxiety. But there is the potential for trouble if the recipients fail to use them.

Personal finance expert Jordan Goodman says gift card purchases have exploded over the past ten years due largely to their ease of use for both givers and takers.

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“And if you get a broad gift card, something that’s gonna apply to a lot of different places, that’s probably the best way to go. So, for example, a particular mall you can get a gift card that works for any store in that mall as opposed to picking a particular store.”

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But there is a downside.

“They get lost and a lot of people don’t end up using them and the stores count on that. There are billions of dollars in unused gift cards out there. At a certain point they do expire and therefore it becomes worthless,” Goodman said. “If you don’t use it after a few months, typically five months, six months, the stores will start taking out unused debit card fees, and if you don’t use it after a full year the whole thing can be completely worthless.”

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If you’re on the receiving end of a gift card this holiday season, Goodman recommends you keep it out in plain sight, do not put it in a drawer or some other place where you’ll forget about it.