It's Gift Card Time

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Gift cards are quickly climbing shoppers' lists of popular holiday gifts. And with after-Christmas shopping underway, many are flooding stores looking to cash in their gifts cards.

Retailers say gift cards have gained popularity in recent years, and shoppers say that success, in part, comes from a gift card's ability to cross that "hard to shop for" person off their holiday list.

The National Retail Federation says Christmas gift cards accounted for $17 billion in sales in 2004, and that figure is expected to surpass $18 billion this holiday season.

And retail stores aren't the only ones cashing in; restaurants are, too.

With gift cards keeping cash registers busy and helping many avoid exchange lines, retailers and shoppers agree that gift cards are an ideal gift to both give and to receive.

The National Retail Federation says the average consumer spent $88.03 on gift cards this holiday season. They say that's about 15 percent of the average consumer’s holiday gift budget.