The holiday shopping season is wrapping up, and poll after poll shows that consumers spent even less this year. But, despite the tight wallets, one gift category is expected to increase in sales this year: gift cards.
Holiday gift card purchases and use is on the rise, according to recent surveys by the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF survey shows that 59 percent of respondents said they’d like to receive gift cards this year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The RGCA survey found 74 percent of respondents plan to give one or more gift cards this holiday season, and nearly 30 percent surveyed noted they planned on giving five or more gift cards. Overall, the number of gift cards consumers plan to purchase as gifts this year increased by 71 percent, according to survey results.
So why are gift cards so popular? Seventy-nine percent of consumers said they like to give gift cards because they know recipients will be able to get what they want. Additional survey results show that 70 percent prefer them for the sake of convenience. As far as types, restaurant gift cards are on top, with 57 percent of survey respondents saying they plan to give at least one this year.
"There is no longer a question that retail gift cards are the most coveted gift to give and get during the holidays, but consumers are being more deliberate about which cards they purchase, with 73 percent spending less on holiday gifts than they did last year," says Jennifer Tramontana, spokesperson for the Retail Gift Card Association.
Whatever your gift card plans this year, make sure you play it safe and follow these tips:
1. When you buy, make sure you get your gift cards from retailers you can trust, and make sure you know the policies.
2. Get a gift receipt. In the event you or your recipient lose the gift card, this will help speed up the replacement process.
3. Around the holidays, many retailers have special deals and incentives when using and buying gift cards – make sure you ask.
4. Gift cards don't have to be impersonal – combine your gift card with another small, personal gift or gift basket to give make it feel more thoughtful.
5. Most retail gift cards purchased from reputable retailers have no expiration date or fee.