Giving gift cards for the holidays? Things to know before you buy

a variety of retail gift cards
a variety of retail gift cards

Gift cards are the most popular and most requested item this holiday season; with 57% of adults saying they prefer to receive gift cards this year, according to the National Retail Federation. And for those who give and receive, there are many reasons to rejoice. New laws have extended redemption periods and required issuers to make rules and fees more clear. Still, with so many options out there, there are things savvy shoppers should be aware of.

New rules governing gift cards were part of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act passed earlier this year, designed to deliver more transparency regarding expiration dates, fees and other restrictions. So if you've heard horror stories about gift cards expiring before they can be redeemed, or users been charged fees that eat away at the balance, breathe easy. The new laws state cards must remain valid for five years after the date of issue, and issuers can't charge inactivity fees until after 12 months without using the card.