Gift cards are popular and easy gifts to give, but are they the right choice for you? Let's dive into the latest stats to find out.
Gift cards are a hugely popular gifting choice as they easy to buy and take the pressure off trying to find the right gift for someone.
However, for the same reason giving a loved one a gift card for their birthdays or the holiday can also be seen as impersonal and a bit lazy too.
So I thought I'd take a look at the latest gift cards data and statistics to see just how popular they remain, how much people are spending on them, and whether they are being used as intended.
And to do this we analysed consumer surveys from the following retail organisations to get an idea of the general gift card shopping trends:
Gift Card Spending Highlights
Before we go into more detail on what was in the various surveys and reports, here's a gift card statistics infographic featuring the key findings.
How Much Do We Spend On Gift Cards Each Year?
The US is the major player worldwide in the gift card market with a 38.26% share of the market and an estimated $293.6 billion being spent in 2020 (Global Gift Cards Industry Report October 2022) (ii).
While the gift card market as a whole is being predicted to reach as high as $1.6 trillion globally by the year 2027.
So gift cards seem to be getting more popular than ever.
However, the rise of inflation over the course of 2022 has led to people cutting back on their spending across the board, including what they spend on gift cards.
With 74% of people polled in Fiserv's Q2 2022 Gift Card Gauge survey (xi) citing inflation as the reason they'd put less money on the gift cards they planned to give compared to before.
Why Do People Give Gift Cards Rather Than Physical Gifts?
According to Mageplaza's Gift Card Statistics 2020 (xii) when asked why they bought gift cards, over half the people surveyed (50.4%) said it was so that the recipient could buy their own gifts.
Which takes the pressure off buying them something that they don't like, with an additional 5.6% saying that a gift card was a good idea because they wouldn't have to return any unwanted items.
While 25.7% liked the fact that gift cards were fast and easy to buy, with 5.6% saying it was easier to e-mail a digital gift card over than send a physical gift.
And finally, the Blackhawk Consumer Network 2019 Gift Cards State of the Union survey (ix) found that gift cards make for great last minute gifts too.
With 32% of physical gift cards and 21% of digital gift cards being snapped up the same day they are being given.
So they can get you out of jail if you forget an important occasion!
Digital vs Physical Gift Cards
The Blackhawk survey (ix) gave a good insight into whether people were buying more digital or physical gift cards.
And the result was that physical gift cards were still out ahead in 2019, with consumers buying an average of 6.4 physical gift cards each year, while that number dropped to 3.4 for digital gift cards.
Which resulted in 79% of consumers saying they'd received a physical gift card from friends and family, compared to just 21% who received a digital one.
This could be explaned by their uses being slightly different, with people preferring to give physical gift cards for birthdays, weddings and graduations, whereas digital gift cards were more likely to be bought for self-use.
They were also shown to be more widely used, with 94% of people saying they'd used a physical gift card compared to only 69% with a digital gift card.
While corporations were more likely to reward their employees with a physical gift card (17%) than a digital one (7%) too.
Gift Cards Are Big Sellers For Christmas
It's no surprise that the holiday season is a boom time for the sales of gift cards, proven by the $28.6 billion expected to be spent on them for the upcoming 2022 winter holiday season according to the National Retail Federation consumer holiday survey (iv).
With 45% of people surveyed saying they planned to buy them for their friends and family, buying an average of 3.2 gift cards each with an average spend of $51.47 on each card.
And this could prove to be a wise choice as 54% said they hoped to receive a gift card, making it the most popular holiday gift choice ahead of the likes of clothing, electronics, jewellery and books.
While it seems that many people may start their Christmas gift card shopping early, with 27% of people saying they planned to buy them as gifts over the Thanksgiving weekend (i).
And gift cards seemed like an impetus to get people out of the house after Christmas too, with 27% citing using their gift cards as the main reason to hit the shops in the week after December 25th.
Which Other Occasions Are Gift Cards Popular For?
According to the Fiserv Q1 2022 Gift Card Gauge survey (xi), 72% of people thought that a gift card was an appropriate gift to mark a milestone event.
So they're not just for the winter holiday season, with birthdays (57%) coming top of the list for people's planned gift card purchases, followed by graduation gifts (37%), thank you gifts (37%), and just 33% for the winter holidays.
While multiple 2022 surveys by the National Retail Federation give us a good idea of when people like to give out gift cards to the ones they love other than at Christmas.
For instance, Mother's Day and Father's Day were popular times among gift card givers, with 52% planning to give a gift card to their Mom on her special day at an average spend of $24.31 (vii), while 46% of Dad's were due to get a gift card with an average value of $23.02 (viii).
Weddings were another occasion where many attendees gave gift cards as wedding gifts, with 10% of people giving a gift card from the couple's registered retailer and 6% from somewhere else according to The Knot (x).
While an incredibly brave 20% of people said they planned to give their partner a gift card for Valentine's Day, making it the 6th most popular gift choice after candy, greeting cards, flowers, an evening out, and jewellery (v).
Rather them than me is all I can say to that!
Which Are The Most Popular Gift Cards To Give?
During the winter holiday season the most popular gift card to give was for restaurants, with 27% of consumers planning to treat their loved ones to their favourite food and drinks (NRF 2022 Consumer Holiday Survey) (iv).
This was followed by gift cards for department stores (26%), coffee shops (20%), online merchants (16%), entertainment (14%), and bookstores (11%).
While Fiserv's Q1 2022 Gift Card Gauge survey (xi) found that most popular gift cards that people were planning to buy as graduation gifts were prepaid ones such as AMEX and Visa (20%).
With other options being 18% for online only merchants such as Amazon, 13% for big box stores like Walmart, and 12% for coffee shops such as Starbucks.
Just Make Sure You Use Your Gift Cards In Time
When you load a gift card up with money and give it to a loved one, you hope and assume they'll go straight out and spend it on the things they want.
However, a 2022 survey by CreditCards.com (iii) found that out of the US adults they surveyed, 47% of them admitted to having unused gift cards, vouchers, or store credits.
With the average value of these being a whopping $175, which is a fair chunk of change to potentially waste.
And waste people did, with 29% admitting they held onto a gift card so long in the past that it expired before they got around to using it!
While a quarter also admitted to losing or misplacing a gift card they had received.
So the moral of the story is if you receive a gift card make sure you use it before you have a chance to forget about it.
And if you give one as a gift there is no guarantee your loved one will redeem it!
I think it's clear to see from these reports and surveys that the gift card industry is going from strength to strength, meaning gift cards remain a good option in 2023 and beyond.
As they not only are gift cards quicker and easier to buy and send to your loved ones, they allow the recipient to choose their own gifts rather than you having to try and second guess what they'd like.
And people do enjoy receiving them them, as shown by the fact they remained the most popular gift that consumers wanted to receive for the 2022 winter holiday season (NRF) (iv).
So they are a top gift option for Christmas gifts, but also are very popular for other occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, and as thank you gifts.
However, if you do give a gift card to your friends or family make sure to remind them to redeem it in time, as people have a tendency to be forgetful with their gift cards.