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10 Incredible Things About Gift Cards You Probably Didn't Know

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I don't know about you, but when the holiday season rolls around and gift-buying commences, I invariably realize that I don't have the time or patience to wrap every single gift I want to buy -- nor do I have a crystal ball that'll tell me what each and every individual on my shopping list wants for Christmas. Long story short, this means that I often turn to gift cards at least a few times a year -- and I'm certainly not alone.

Source: asenat29, Flickr.

Gift cards mean big profits for many of America's companies for a number of reasons. Gift cards tend to drive foot traffic into stores that otherwise wouldn't have been there, and they are fantastic at getting gift card receivers to spend more than the actual value of the gift card, thus boosting a business's profits even further.

Whether you like them or not, gift cards are continuing to revolutionize the retail industry, and it pays to understand just how important they are. That's why today we're going to look at 10 incredible gift card statistics, courtesy of data compiler GiftCardGranny

1. Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift.
No gift is more commonly requested during the holiday season, according to industrywide statistics, than gift cards. Approximately two-thirds of all Americans have purchased at least one gift card, and more than half of all gift card recipients take two or more trips to spend the full balance of their gift card, providing the foot traffic bump for free that businesses usually pay out the nose for through advertising.

2. Shoppers purchased an estimated $28.79 billion worth of gift cards during the 2012 holiday season.
According to statistics, shoppers were expected to purchase nearly $29 billion worth of gift cards during the 2012 holiday season. To put this into context, the cumulative sales amassed during the Black Friday holiday weekend in 2012 was $59.1 billion. In other words, gift cards now account for nearly 20% of all holiday spending.

3. The most commonly purchased gift card value is $25.
Balancing out the $5 gift cards with the $500 gift cards, the most commonly purchased gift card will have $25 loaded onto it. Logically, this is a strategic price point for retailers -- they can price their merchandise appropriately to encourage consumers to spend more than the value on their gift card.

4. Teens are the most common recipients of gift cards.
With desires that change on a moment's notice, teens are the most common recipient of gift cards. One survey that GiftCardGranny alludes to notes that 98% of teens have either received a gift card or purchased one as a gift. With little concept of money or margins, teens are the perfect gift card recipient for businesses as they're especially likely to spend beyond the value of their gift card.

5. 45% of gift card recipients spend 60% more than the value of their gift card.
Speaking of spending more than the value of a gift card, roughly 60% of recipients will spend more than the value of their gift card, while 45% of total recipients will spend at least 60% or more beyond the value of their gift card. In other words, 45% of recipients will spend $40 or more if they possess that commonly gifted $25 card.

6. Two-fifths of gift card recipients don't use the value on their gift card.
On the flipside, businesses also count on the free money generated by unused gift cards. Statistics found on GiftCardGranny show that 40% of all gift card recipients don't use the full value on their gift card. Ultimately, businesses would rather get you into their stores in order to attempt to build up their brand loyalty, but they'll also take the immediate margin boost of not having you use your gift card, either.

7. There's a double-digit spending difference between digital and plastic gift cards.
You may not realize it, but there's a big difference between paper gift certificates, plastic gift certificates, and digital/mobile certificates. Because of the increasing digitization of society, plastic gift cards have been shown to increase sales by 50% to 100% over paper gift cards while mobile/digital gift cards often have an additional 10% to 15% loaded on them over plastic gift cards.

8. 61% of surveyed businesses plan to offer mobile gift cards by 2015.
Given what we just learned, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 61% of all businesses surveyed in a recent study intend to offer mobile gift cards by 2015. It's all about convenience these days, which is why direct-to-consumer sales are such an important figure to monitor with retailers.

9. Wal-Mart is the most often purchased gift card.
According to a survey conducted by GiftCardGranny and NRF, the top five most requested gift cards as determined by more than 130,000 separate gift card alerts are:


Number of gift card alerts

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  )


Target (NYSE: TGT  )

1,935 (NASDAQ: AMZN  )


Walgreen (NASDAQ: WBA  )


Home Depot (NYSE: HD  )


Source: GiftCardNanny, NRF.

Wal-Mart is an obvious choice to be the most often purchased gift card given that it's America's largest retailer, and that it carries a huge selection of products, from groceries to clothing. Target is also a non-surprising close second because it, too, carries groceries and brand-name, but discounted, clothing. is gaining in popularity thanks to its growing marketplace and digital streaming library. Walgreen is popular with most cost-conscious households because of its sprawling locations across the U.S. Finally, Home Depot hits home with every do-it-yourself homeowner across the U.S., especially with the economy on the mend.

10. Birthdays are more popular than the holidays when it comes to gift cards.
Now, here's the real kicker... the holidays aren't the most common time for gift cards to be purchased. According to the survey results, birthdays are the most popular occasion for a gift card purchase, with 81% of respondents noting that they purchase gift cards for someone's birthday, as opposed to the 67% who said that they buy gift cards for the holidays.

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