Q At a travel show in February, I won a round-trip ticket on EVA Air for travel to Taiwan. I lost the award letter, and EVA tells me it can't be replaced. Can anyone help?

A Alas, like many things in life, this one apparently can't be solved but will serve as a lesson in our personal book of hard-won knowledge.

We contacted EVA on behalf of the letter writer, and here was the response from spokeswoman Mary Graybill: "With sincere apologies ... EVA cannot issue a ticket without that certificate. Everyone at EVA sincerely hopes that (she) put it in a safe place and that she finds it before it expires in February. ...

"The certificate is like a gift card. Whoever has the gift card in hand can use it. Someone else could have (her) certificate and use it."

Hers is a cautionary tale for many of us this holiday season who receive gift cards or gift certificates, whether they're from airlines, hotels, rental car agencies or other travel providers: Treat them like cash. In the holiday rush, it's easy to say, "I'll just put this aside in this safe place and get it later."

A more effective system, says Shelley Hunter, founder of GiftCardGirlfriend.com, now a part of GiftCards.com, is to use techniques -- either low-tech or high-tech -- to keep track of your bounty.

Low tech: Take pictures, front and back, of your gift card or certificate, she said, and if there's a serial number, enter it into whatever notes file you keep, whether it's in your smartphone (make sure it's password protected) or your Mac or PC (ditto on password protection).

Higher tech: Gyft and GoWallet, among other apps, keep your numbers safe and allow you to redeem the card and track balances.

And if you're the one doing the gift-giving, do the recipient a favor and record the number of any gift or flight certificate, just in case. Saving that person from himself or herself may be the best gift of all.

Today's column comes from Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times.