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Holiday spending jump is in the cards

Gift cards used to be good for a $20 stocking stuffer or a quick $10 birthday gift.

But gift cards have gone big.

The cards themselves, of course, haven't changed size. The amount of money people are giving has changed dramatically.

The National Retail Federation estimates shoppers will spend $24.8-billion on gift cards this year, up $6.3-billion from last year.

On average, people will spend $116.51 on gift cards this year.

Saks spokeswoman Julia Bentley said the average gift card purchase at Saks is $180. "We can do a gift card up to $9,999, which people have done," she said.

With gift cards growing in popularity every year, many kinds of retailers are getting into the game. Even Southwest Airlines is touting its gift cards, which were introduced last holiday season. People can give a Southwest gift card for up to $1,000.

Companies are bundling gift cards with other gifts. For instance, at Barnes & Noble, you can buy an item such as a book light, board game or chocolate that comes with a gift card.

And everyone from the local dry cleaner to the corner ice cream shop is jumping on the gift card bandwagon.

"It's a way of building loyalty, and it's not looked down on as an impersonal gift anymore," said Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the NRF.

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