Gift Card Statistics

The growth of gift cards in the U.S. has grown significantly from their introduction in the mid 1990s.
Here’s what various organizations tell us about the use of gift cards.

1. When retailers switch from paper gift certificates to gift cards,
    they sell anywhere from fifty to one hundred percent more.

2. The average recipient spends 20 percent more than their card’s initial value.

3. Fifty-five percent of gift card recipients need
    more than one trip to deplete the value of their card.

4. Two-thirds of all consumers have purchased at least one gift card.

5. Eighty-one percent of consumers purchase gift cards for birthdays
    versus 67 percent for holidays.

6. In 2004, the average value of gift cards was $59.

7. Two-thirds of adults who like to receive them
    enjoy receiving them throughout the year.

In 2005, consumers spent at least $35.3 billion on gift cards.

(Sources: American Greetings,, Green Sheet Quarterly, National Retail Federation)


CBS News

Retailers love them and many consumers like getting them.

Cash preferred

"In the event that you can't give a [standard] gift, give cash. That's what you should do," Cran said, adding there's also the risk of a store going bankrupt before a card is used.

According to market research firm NPD Group Canada Inc., 40 per cent of adults received at least one gift card last holiday season. But as many as 40 per cent of the cards had not been redeemed by March.

That's money in the bank for retailers — and money doing nothing for consumers.

U.S.-based Consumer Reports magazine has repeatedly warned people to tread carefully with gift cards. It estimates that around 25 per cent of gift cards that were bought in 2007 still have not been redeemed.

More than a third of the people surveyed said they either forgot about their cards or lost them — or the cards had expired. Another third said they couldn't find anything they wanted to spend their gift card on. Almost 60 per cent said they didn't have the time to shop.

What's the difference between gift cards and gift certificates?

It's more than just plastic vs. paper. While both products are sold in pre-set denominations, you may get cash back if your gift certificate is worth more than your purchase.

Pick up a pair of $45 pants with your $50 jean store gift certificate and you can go down the street and buy lunch at the doughnut shop with your change. Not so with a gift card. Buy something for $45 with the $50 gift card and you have $5 left on the card to spend at the same store next time you're there.

Gift cards may be far more popular than gift certificates, but plastic hasn't killed paper yet. Many fast-food restaurants and movie theatres still offer gift certificates — paper is cheaper when you're doling out gifts in small denominations.

What other advantages do gift cards offer retailers?

Studies show that people spend more on gift cards than on gift certificates. The average card denomination is $50 — twice the amount people would spend on the average gift certificate.

And armed with that gift card, you're more likely to spend more than its face value when you shop — as much as twice the value of the card.

Research also shows that people who buy with gift cards are less likely to be fussy about the price they're paying. A study by the J.C. Williams Group found 40 per cent of shoppers using a retailer's card bought items at full price, while only 16 per cent of shoppers using other payment methods bought at full price.

Retailers are also partial to gift cards because they tend to decrease the amount of merchandise that is returned. You won't have to fake it when you say, "No, I really do like it," when you open what Grandma got you this time.

Another reason retailers have taken to gift cards is that they appear to smooth out the drastic sales drop in the weeks after the busy Christmas season. The cards are purchased in large numbers in November and December and given as gifts at Christmas. But many are not redeemed until January or later.