Tips to protect your gift card to ensure you get the full amount

If you received a gift card for Christmas, you can take steps to protect your card and make sure you get the full amount.

First, register the card, if the company allows it.

See if you can add a PIN, so only you can use the card.

Ask the person who gave you the card for the receipt. If the card is lost or stolen, or if there are any problems with it, you have evidence that the card was purchased and is yours.

Check the balance on the card right away. Some thieves steal the money from the card while it is still on the shelf before someone buys it. You want to make sure you don't have an empty card. If you do, report it right away.

Check the card terms of use. You may find some surprises; for example, some cards charge you every time you use them.

Use the card right way. Some cards charge you fees for not using the card in a certain time period. Websites like allow you to sign up for reminders about using your card and will send you alerts if a company files for bankruptcy, which could mean you have a only short time to use your card.

If you want to try to sell your gift card or buy a pre-purchased card online, here are some tips.

The Better Business Bureau does not recommend you buy or sell gift cards on auction sites or sites like Craisgslist.

Instead, try some of the top gift card selling sites that have been around for a while.

Check out the websites with the BBB and online, searching for complaints. We have heard stories of people sending in cards and getting nothing for them.

Some sites guarantee the value of the card for a certain period of time, like 45 or 60 days. Check out the site's policy. And remember, the policy is only as good as the site itself.

Watch out for gift cards offered at a big discount. Scammers often offer very low prices to try to get you to buy. Some sites say the average discount is about ten percent off the face value, on average.

If you buy a card in person, check out the balance before you hand over the cash. Call the number on the card or check it online.

Some scam sellers empty the card right before selling it, so the balance you check may not yet reflect the transaction.

Watch out if you buy cards from companies that may be in financial trouble or declaring bankruptcy. You may end up with a card for a company that is out of business. analyzes gift cards and gives them ratings.