Learn why gift cards go unused – and much more!
How many gift cards do we receive, on average? And what portion of them ever gets spent? Let’s look at a few of the most surprising statistics about gift cards from the past year. We’ll also explore national and global trends in gift card sales.
Striking Gift Card Statistics
Here’s a roundup of the most astonishing gift card statistics for 2021:
- 51% of people forget to use their gift cards.
- 21% of people keep gift cards so long that the business shuts down.
- 56% of Millennials have unused gift cards, which total $139 on average.
- 64% of people who lose gift cards are in higher income brackets.
- In 2021, holiday sales of gift cards rose by 114% above the 2020 holiday season.
- After two months, the likelihood of using a gift card plummets dramatically.
- 29% of people planned to purchase gift cards to avoid supply chain disruptions in 2021.
- Restaurant gift cards make up a sizable portion of the market, at 27% (for physical gift cards).
Read on for more surprising gift card stats and trends!
National Gift Card Stats
In the U.S., gift cards have been rising in popularity—meaning more unused gift cards, as these stats show.
How much is the U.S. gift card industry growing?
The industry is predicted to grow by 9.5% in 2022, reaching over $188 billion, Research and Markets announced in a March 2022 report. This can substantially boost retail sales over the next four to six quarters, they add. By 2025, the U.S. market will likely reach $238 billion.
How many people forget to use gift cards?
A BankRate survey found that 51% of people forget to use gift cards. Twenty-nine percent keep their gift cards so long that they expire, while 21% hold onto them for so long that the business closes. Meanwhile, 27% lose them.
Which demographics most often forget to use them?
Millennials, it turns out—56% have unused gift cards, with an average value of $139. On their heels follow Boomers, at 52%, with an average unused gift card value of $113, and Gen Xers, at 47%, with an average value of $112. And 64% of those who lose gift cards are in higher-income tiers, found BankRate.
Why do people delay using gift cards?
Here are the top three reasons people put off using a gift card, according to Blackhawk’s 2022 report:
- Saving it for a special occasion.
- Waiting for a time when it will help them more financially.
- Waiting until the retailer offers something they want.
Who buys the most gift cards?
67% of consumers bought a gift card in the past year, says Blackhawk Network. Here’s the breakdown by generation:
- Boomers purchased the most, at 71%.
- Gen Xers followed, at 70%.
- Millennials came in third, at 67%.
- Gen Zers came in at 57%.
How does e-gift card use measure up against physical cards?
In 2020, e-gift card use more than doubled, especially in specific categories, found Research and Markets. Electronics and gaming rose substantially, and digital streaming gift cards doubled. Widespread use of smartphones and, of course, the pandemic have driven the market’s growth.
According to Blackhawk Network, 27% of consumers buy a digital gift card at least once per quarter, while 42% buy a physical gift card at least that often. Consumers purchased an average of 3.4 digital gift cards and 6.4 physical gift cards in the past year.
Key buying times
The holiday season is peak gift card buying time. According to Research Dive, gift cards are the most popular Christmas present in the U.S. In 2021, from November through mid-December, gift card sales rose by 114% compared with the same period in 2020. In 2021, 29% of consumers planned to purchase more gift cards than the previous year to avoid supply chain disruptions. A Blackhawk survey found that 83% of consumers plan to give a gift card instead of a physical gift.
Gift cards are a popular Mother’s Day present and a widespread option for celebrating milestones, according to Fiserv’s May 2021 report. The following percentages of consumers say gift cards are their go-to present for these occasions:
- Birthdays (78%)
- Graduations (67%)
- Weddings (52%)
- Anniversaries (46%)
- Baby showers (38%)
Gift cards are also becoming a very popular employee reward. (Who wouldn’t rather have a gift card than some company swag or an “appreciation plaque”?)
When is gift card spending most likely to occur?
A full 82% of consumers aim to spend a gift card within six months. But after the first 180 days, the likelihood of spending declines dramatically. More than 20% of cards remain unredeemed after one year—and about 6% of gift cards are never used.
What are the most popular gift card vendors?
The most popular gift card merchants include Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Target, Starbucks, and Walmart, says Research Dive Analysis.
What gift card categories are performing best?
Open-loop gift card sales soared in 2020, rising by 31.5%. Nearly half of all gift cards were sold in December. And restaurant gift card sales rose by 22% in 2021, Paytronix’s Restaurant Gift Card Sales Report 2022 found.
Blackhawk Network’s 2022 report found that restaurant gift cards hold a sizable share of the gift card market. Here’s what the breakdown looks like for physical gift cards: restaurants (27%), mass merchandisers (23%), online retailers (13%), and department stores (8%), followed by home improvement (4%), gaming/streaming (4%), fashion (3%), and movie theaters (3%).
For digital gift cards, the top categories include online retailers (44%), restaurants (15%), mass merchandisers (12%), and gaming/streaming (10%).
Gift Card Stats by Region
Let’s look at some gift card stats from countries around the world, as well as U.S. states.
Where is gift card use rising?
Meanwhile, B2B gift card sales are exceptionally high in France, says Persistence Market Research.
Are gift cards a popular holiday present worldwide?
Yes, absolutely. Across ten countries, 45% of holiday spending was slated for gift card purchases in 2021, Blackhawk found. Consumers surveyed planned to buy a whopping 17 gift cards on average. Dining, personal care, and beauty are significant categories for holiday shoppers worldwide. Mexico and India were poised to spend the largest portion of holiday purchases on gift cards in 2021, with Mexico showing the most significant increase.
In the U.S., gift cards are a trendy holiday item in Alabama, North Carolina, and Michigan.
Do gift cards expire in U.S. states?
Federal regulations say gift cards can’t expire for five years. Some U.S. states, like California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, and Rhode Island, have implemented regulations that say gift cards cannot expire.
Open-loop gift cards provide another level of protection: If one retailer shuts down, others will likely remain open for business.
Based on current trends, the gift card industry will continue booming over the next several years (and likely beyond!). Research and Markets predicts a compound annual growth rate of 8.8%, bringing the U.S. gift card industry to $23,8973.8 million by 2025.
Open-loop gift cards are expected to grow in popularity, and these cards allow consumers to shop at multiple locations. Between 2020 and 2028, this segment will have a revenue of $724.93 billion, predicts Research Dive. “The global prepaid card industry surpassed $2 trillion last year thanks to gains in gift cards,” says Bloomberg.
As mentioned, along with the rise in gift card sales comes an increase in unused gift cards. Learn how to make those forgotten gift card dollars work for your school, church, or community group! With help from CardFunder, it’s a simple process that delivers tangible results.
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