Thousands of people will give gift cards to friends and family this Christmas and according to research, money could be lost because of short expiry dates.

The majority of gift cards sold have ‘hidden’ expiry dates buried online or in the small print on the back of the card.

Many run out within 12 months of purchase, but this is not clearly marked on the card.

According to the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, gift cards running out causes a loss of £300m a year to UK consumers.

Some retailers have much longer expiry dates, like Amazon and Argos. Others such as Pizza Hut, IKEA, Selfridges, Starbucks, Theatre Tokens and TK Maxx sell gift cards with no expiry date at all.

Gift Card Issuers going into liquidation is arguably an even bigger problem than expiry dates.

Once a company enters the liquidation process, it is highly unusual for consumers to ever get their money back. UK consumer right group, Fairer Finance estimates that if a company is liquidated, on average, consumers receive less than 1c per €1 on their gift card in this situation.

Gift Cards are not a regulated product and there is currently no proper protection for consumers.

There is no good reason why restaurants and shops should be allowed to add expiry dates to gift cards.

For those considering a gift card, the One4All Gift Card from An Post is hard to beat.

An Post is State guaranteed, so your money is a safe.

One4all Gift Cards can be spent free of charges for 12 months following the purchase date (i.e. when the card was bought from a Post Office or online). After this time a monthly charge of €1.45 will be deducted from funds remaining on the card, until the card balance reaches zero.

When purchasing a Gift Card in Post Offices outlets, there is a fee of €2 for the first card and €0.50 per additional card.

There is a fee of €2 for postage and packaging when purchasing One4all Gift Cards online.