Gift cards, are no longer humble stocking stuffers. They are becoming bigger business. Nearly 58 percent of shoppers say they’d like to receive a gift card this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, and it looks like they are going to get their wish. The NRF reports that holiday shoppers are projected to spend, on average, almost $10 more on gift cards this holiday season than they did in 2010.
Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $155.43 on gift cards, the highest amount since 2007, the survey of 8,502 people found. Just over 80 percent of people plan to purchase gift cards, up from 77.3 percent in 2010. They are also expected to spend more on each card they buy, just over $43 a card compared to about $41.50 last year.
Men are expected to buy more gift cards than women,
Of the 8,502 people polled, 38.7 percent said they plan to give department store gift cards. The next most popular cards are from restaurants (33.8 percent), entertainment venues (18.2), book stores (19.8), coffee shops (15.9) and discount stores (13.0).
An increasing number of retailers are making available to their customers electronic gift cards, or e-cards. Fifty-one percent of the gift cards surveyed can be delivered electronically, up from 41 percent in 2010, according to the 2011 Gift Card Survey conducted by Bankrate.com and CreditCards.com.
Best Buy, Gap, Pizza Hut and American Express introduced e-cards for the first time within the past year, the survey found. Target and Starbucks added mobile-specific gift cards, while Amazon now allows customers to send gift cards via Facebook.
The survey also found that only 8 percent of the cards surveyed have expiration dates, and these were general purpose cards issued by credit card brands. The majority of the cards (65 percent) can be replaced in the event of loss or theft, are free of dormancy or maintenance fees (92 percent) or offer free shipping or delivery (73 percent).
While many gift cards have since dispensed with hidden fees or dormancy penalties, card-givers are advised to check on rules and restrictions. For example, a lost Home Depot gift card cannot be replaced if purchased with cash, the survey found. There is a $1.95 service fee for Toys R Us cards purchased online.
The popularity of gift cards has been accompanied by the proliferation of entrepreneurial gift-card exchange sites, CNN reports. CardCash.com, PlasticJungle.com, and GiftCards.com are just some of the sites to where gift-card recipients can sell them back for about 90 percent of the face value, or buy gift cards for up to 15 percent off.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.