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Instead of looking under your tree for gifts on Christmas morning, this year you may just check your Facebook wall.

The appearance of e-gift cards on Facebook should come as no surprise to tech-savvy consumers, especially since e-gift cards have been around for years. But sales are expected to surge from $1.6 billion in 2009 to $5.86 billion in 2014, according to a February report from Javelin Strategy & Research. That, combined with a Nielsen study that reported 25% of Americans’ online time is spent on social media like Facebook, makes a gift-giving heaven for shoppers and retailers.  

To exchange an e-gift card, gift givers need only be friends with the recipient on Facebook, then click over to participating sites like Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) to create, purchase and post the card on recipients’ walls (or send via e-mail).

“Sending an e-gift card on Facebook makes it a little more personal, and as a retailer, you want to be where the customers are spending time,” says Judd Lillestrand, the founder of ScripSmart, a website that evaluates gift cards. “It’s also great advertising, because if we’re friends and I see you buying that gift card, I might be inclined to buy it.”

With this in mind, big brands are pushing the product hard this year, and Facebook is quickly becoming the go-to site for distribution. Applications like eGift Social often power the friend-to-friend gifting programs, although some retailers have experimented with their own applications. In April, Starbucks launched the Starbucks Card Facebook application, an instant hit as Starbucks boasts more than 15 million fans on Facebook. The coffee chain’s “Give a Gift” feature allows friends to virtually load between $5 and $500 on a friend’s Starbucks Card.

Of course, not all e-gift cards are worth the expense. One Kohl’s customer named Jennifer Polk recently aired her frustration on Facebook about an e-gift card she purchased that failed to arrive at her school.

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To make the most of your e-gift card experience, Lillestrand recommends the following:

If You’re the Gift-Giver
Let your recipient know you’re sending the card. (“You don’t want it arriving in your friend’s spam folder,” Lillestrand says.)

If You’re the Recipient
Read the terms closely. All e-gift cards fall under the new CARD legislation, but rules vary by state. For a checklist and ranking of your state’s laws, check ScripSmart.

If you receive your card by e-mail, check who sent it and check the domain. (“If it’s something crazy, don’t use it,” says Lillestrand. You might be the target of a phishing scam.)

Going shopping this holiday season? MainStreet tells you what to expect on Black Friday.

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