Gift Card Statistics: How They Fit in Our Spending Habits

Gift cards are a lifesaver in situations where we don’t know what to buy—but that’s not all. Although gift card use statistics show that the holidays are the busiest time of year for shopping, gift cards are no longer just a holiday or birthday gift item.

There’s a huge market for exchanging unused gift cards, earning free gift cards through online surveys, and even buying and reselling them as a form of income. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting facts and stats about gift card use.

Top Gift Card Statistics: Editor’s Choice

  • The global gift card industry is valued at around $845 billion.
  • In December 2020, gift card sales increased by more than 100%.
  • Grocery gift cards were the second most sold type of open-loop gift card in 2020.
  • Online shopping is the number one spending category for closed-loop cards across all age groups.
  • More than 70% of gift cards are used within six months. 
  • Around 6% of gift cards are never used.
  • Between 10% and 25% of online retail fraud attempts are gift card-related.
  • Consumers who buy digital gift cards buy more gift cards than average consumers.
  • More than 50% of US adults forget to use their gift cards.

Gift Card Industry Statistics

The gift card industry has been steadily growing since its inception in the early 1970s. It has become a massive part of the global retail market, and yet it’s not a market that most consumers think about outside the holiday season. Around the holidays, there’s a significant increase in the number of gift cards sold, but do gift card sales spike at any other time of the year? Let’s see. 

1. The US gift card market is expected to record an 8.8% CAGR by 2025.

The US gift card market size was approximately $155 billion by the end of 2020 and saw steady growth throughout 2021. By 2025, the industry is projected to increase in value to around $238 billion. The growth has been accelerated in the last two years, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2. The global gift card market is valued at around $845 billion.

According to gift card statistics, 2022 has seen significant growth in the size of the gift card industry. In comparison, the global gift card market was valued at $719 billion in 2020. The market is expected to increase to $2.02 trillion by 2027. 

3. The 2020 holiday season saw an 80% increase in eGift sales compared to 2019.

In addition to the increase in eGift sales, ecommerce sales saw a 40% increase. Consumer spending in these two areas exceeded holiday spending projections, a trend that is expected to continue as retailers look to online gift cards to provide a much-needed boost.

4. The digital gift card market will grow at twice the rate of the overall gift card market in the next three years.

Digital gift card statistics indicate that the eGift card industry will see a 23% increase in adoption rates among businesses by 2025. The physical gift card adoption rate is expected to grow by just 9% during the same period.

5. In December 2020, gift card sales increased by more than 100%.

The year-over-year increase for gift card sales in December 2020 was 106.1%. On average, during this month, a retailer sold close to 40,000 gift cards. This data doesn’t include information about Amazon gift cards or multi-store gift cards, so the actual number is likely higher.

Gift Card Use Statistics

Almost everyone has purchased or used a gift card, but some people use them more frequently than others. What are the most popular categories for gift card spending? Which age groups purchase and use gift cards the most? How has coronavirus impacted gift card buying habits? Let’s look at some gift card stats to find out.

6. In 2021, 73% of consumers said they didn’t expect their gift card purchasing habits to change anytime soon. 

When it comes to gift card sales, 2021 was a record year. Still, consumers don’t anticipate increasing their spending in 2022. The study also found that 67% of consumers thought they would purchase the same number of gift cards in 2021 as they did in 2020. As we can see by looking at the increase in the size of the global gift card market in 2021 compared to 2020, consumers certainly underestimated their gift card buying habits.

7. Grocery gift cards were the second most sold type of open-loop gift card in 2020.

Grocery gift cards have seen a massive boost in sales since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people shop for groceries online. Gift industry statistics show that sales of closed-loop grocery store gift cards were also high in 2020, coming in fifth in total sales of closed-loop cards.

8. Restaurant gift card sales decreased by almost 32% in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, gift card sales for restaurants have decreased dramatically during the pandemic. 2020 saw a 31.8% decrease in restaurant gift card sales, with dine-in and full-service restaurants taking a bigger hit than fast food joints. About 45% of all sales for the year happened during the holidays.

9. Online shopping is the number one spending category for closed-loop cards across all age groups.

Gift card trends show that Gen Zers, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers use gift cards primarily for online shopping. Ecommerce statistics indicate that over 2 billion consumers are online buyers. The second-largest category that Gen Zers and Millennials spend money on is clothing. On the other hand, the second-largest category for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers is groceries. Other categories include dining, digital content, and entertainment.

10. Consumers who buy digital content gift cards buy more gift cards than average consumers.

US retail industry statistics show that over 80% of consumers shop online. One gift card survey found that consumers who purchase gaming gift cards purchase an average of 5.6 cards per quarter. Gaming gift card sales have increased steadily year over year. Consumers who purchase cards for other digital content (i.e., streaming services like Netflix or Hulu) purchase an average of 7.6 cards per quarter, while regular gift card consumers purchase an average of 3.7 cards per quarter.

Gift Card Trends Regarding Exchange, Breakage, and Fraud

Gift card fraud is common, primarily because gift cards are easy to purchase and resell. Gift card breakage refers to the revenue gained by a company when a consumer doesn’t use a gift card. In this case, the retailer pockets the money and never has to provide any service or product. Gift card exchange is a fairly new phenomenon that is becoming popular in African countries like Nigeria, where gift cards are exchanged for a percentage of their initial purchase value.

11. Between 10% and 25% of online retail fraud attempts are gift card-related.

Gift card statistics indicate that an estimated one-quarter of gift card-related fraud attempts are related to fraudulent purchases. Gift cards are attractive to criminals because they are easy to resell. Like electronics, gift cards are generic and have mass appeal.

12. The website Raise is known for offering the best gift card rate.

Gift card exchange is the process of taking your unwanted or unused gift cards and exchanging them for cash. There are several sites that offer this service for a small fee. Raise has the lowest fee for gift card exchange (10–15%), meaning you keep around 90% of the card’s value in cash. 

13. Over 60% of gift card recipients will use the card even if it’s for a brand they don’t like.

Unused gift card statistics show that a surprisingly high percentage of people will still use a card even if they don’t care for the brand. Additionally, of the 57% of people who have received a card for an unfamiliar brand, 78% will use the card, and 87% of those people will become repeat customers.

14. More than 50% of US adults forget to use their gift cards.

According to gift card breakage statistics, the total value of unused gift cards in the States is over $15 billion, or an average of $116 per person. Millennials are the largest group when it comes to unused gift cards (56%). Gen Zers are most likely to use their gift cards. 

15. More than 70% of gift cards are used within six months.

So, what percentage of gift cards go unused? According to one survey, after one year, just under 80% of cards have been redeemed, and the likelihood that they will be used continues to decline. 

16. In 2021, Steam gift cards had the highest resale value.

Gift card trading and resale is now the norm in places like Kenya and Ghana, and some gift cards that are in high demand. The company with the highest gift card amount for resale in 2021 was Steam. Steam gift cards can be resold for 93–95% of their initial purchase price. 

16. Around 6% of gift cards are never used.

At any given moment, 10–19% of gift card balances are unredeemed, but only a small percentage of gift cards are never used at all. That’s because people forget about them, lose them, or don’t like the retailer that issued the card.

Gift Card Statistics: The Takeaway

Gift cards might be something most people only think about during the holidays, but the gift card industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that has grown tremendously in the last few years. The growth is primarily driven by the shift to online purchasing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gift card use is becoming more prevalent in areas like grocery shopping, entertainment, and electronic goods. At the same time, sectors like the restaurant industry have seen a sharp decline in gift card sales.

The resale of unused gift cards has become the new norm in developing countries, while the value of unused gift cards in the United States amounts to a staggering $15 billion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of gift cards are actually used?

In the United States, the value of forgotten and unused gift cards totals over $15 billion or $116 per person. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, the total balance of all unused gift cards was estimated at $47.5 billion. Surprisingly, however, the percentage of gift cards that go completely unused is only around 6%. Unfortunately, many gift cards have a remaining balance on them even after use because it’s difficult to spend the exact amount.

What percentage of gift cards are digital?

According to recent statistics, digital gift cards have become much more popular than physical gift cards in the last two years. This is likely fueled by an uptick in online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018 and 2019, digital gift cards accounted for about 28% and 30% of gift card purchases, respectively. In 2020, digital gift cards accounted for 45% of total gift card purchases.

How many Amazon gift cards can I use per order?

According to Amazon statistics, gift cards are some of the most purchased items on Amazon. You can use as many Amazon gift cards as you want to pay for an order. Simply add your gift card to your Amazon Pay balance before placing your order. You can add as many cards as you want to your Amazon balance. When you arrive at checkout, the total amount of your added gift cards will show up in your Amazon balance. Simply choose to use your Amazon balance as a payment method, and the amount will be applied to your cart total.

How many gift cards are bought a year?

It’s difficult to estimate exactly how many gift cards are bought in a year, as gift card sales are tracked in dollars, and the dollar amount of each card varies dramatically. It’s estimated that around 95% of American households have bought or received gift cards. Moreover, the average shopper purchases five gift cards per year, spending around $256. All in all, the total amount of money spent on gift cards is astonishing. According to gift card statistics, the global gift card industry is valued at $845 billion and will continue to grow.