Gift Card Statistics USA: How Popular are Gift Cards in 2021?

Gift cards. For some people they’re a fantastic gift idea, allowing your recipient to choose a gift themselves from their favorite store. But in the Covid climate with retailers struggling, are consumers too nervous to buy gift cards for fear of losing their money? And do we enjoy receiving them?

We took a look at the numbers to find out.

Quick Fire Gift Card Statistics

Want the fast version? Here are our top findings (with more data below):

A Very Seasonal Purchase

Of all the gift cards we analysed in our keyword research using KWFinder, search volume increases dramatically in November and December each year, indicating the increased demand for the products prior to the festive period. This was also highlighted by the Google Trends data for the search term “Gift Cards” as it displays that popularity of the term increases before the Christmas holidays each year.

Google Trends data for “Gift Cards” in the USA (2016-2021)

Do People Enjoy Receiving Gift Cards as Presents in the USA?

So, as gift buyers, a gift card might seem like a pretty safe option. It’s perfect when you know the stores your recipients love but you, frankly, just don’t have a clue what they want, need or even like.

It’s also a great shout for items that might be size specific like clothing. So instead of getting something wrong that might need returning, this gives you the option of letting them shop themselves.

But what do recipients think?

Type “gift cards are…” into Google and let it suggest what you might be searching (based on other people’s searches) and you get two very conflicting stories:

So let’s put it to the people.

In March and April 2021, we surveyed 3,001 people in the USA about what they’d prefer as a gift.

Here’s what we asked:

When receiving a birthday gift, which would you rather have?

We conducted a survey, asking 3001 respondents in the US what their favourite gift to receive was, with over 17% of all respondents opting for a gift card.

When extrapolated, this equates to 35 million adult US citizens who would prefer to receive a gift card as a present, emphasizing the size of the gift card market in this one country alone.

It Varies by Age

A fifth of those aged over 65 would opt for a gift card compared with just 13% of 18 to 24s.

And By State

When we look at the 10 most populous states, we see variation too. Your gift card will be well received in Pennsylvania where a quarter of the population cites it as their first choice of gift.

Although not one of the most populous states, it’s worth mentioning Alabama, where a gift card was the top choice of gift (29.3%) over anything else.

But they’re NOT Popular with Everyone

There are 2,900 searches in Google each month for “can you return gift cards,” based on data from kwfinder.com.

This peaks in December (boxing day unwanted gift offloading?) with 12,100 such searches in December 2019.

Not everyone opts to try and return. Far more recipients, we assume based on search data, will try and sell on. Here are the search volumes in December 2021 for searches implying someone possibly looking to offload an unwanted gift card:

Google Search Searches (USA) in December 2020
Sell gift cards online 12,100
Sell gift cards for cash 12,100
Sell gift cards for cash instantly near me 9,900
Sell gift cards online instantly 9,900

What is the Most Popular Gift Card?

So which retailer has the most in demand gift cards? We took the USA’s biggest retailers and looked at how many times their gift cards are searched for in Google USA in a typical month. Here’s what we found.

Keyword Average Monthly Searches USA (Average of past 12 months)
Amazon gift card269,000
Walmart gift card110,000
Target gift card96,900
iTunes gift card85,000
Apple gift card79,400
Home Depot gift card338,00
Costco gift card30,400
Best Buy gift card24,900
Lowes gift card24,700
Kroger gift card18,600
Macys gift card17,700
Nordstrom gift card17,400
Giant eagle gift card13,700
TJ Maxx gift card13,600
Kohls gift card12,800
Walgreens gift card12,500
CVS gift card12,500
Publix gift card10,700
Aldi gift card7,600
Wayfair gift card7,200

Data sourced from Keyword Finder

Amazon is the most popular retailer, generating 269,000 monthly searches in the US for the search term “Amazon gift card”.

But that 269,000 searches is an average of the past 12 months. If we look just at key seasonal months, the numbers are astronomical. In December 2020, the term was searched 673,000 times.

Amazon Dominates in Almost ALL States

Amazon is hands down the winner across all apart from one state.

But in Arkansas, Walmart is a slightly more popular option for gift cards (1,400 searches per month) than Amazon (1,300).

Unused Gift Cards

How many gift cards go unused? According to research, some $3 billion in unused gift cards goes to waste every single year.

Some will turn to eBay to offload their gift cards, with 5,240 results on eBay.com as of 15th April 2021 for “gift cards."

Of the 5,240 gift cards listed on Ebay:

The Size of the Market

The gift card market is absolutely phenomenal. According to one study, the US gift card market hit $619.25 billion in 2019 and will reach $2,076.51 billion by 2027.

Summary

In conclusion, the gift card market is very lucrative in the USA, with a growing demand for the products and an expected continued growth in the future. Ecommerce based businesses are leading the charge into the expanding sector with their digital based products, making them easily distributed and a great option for a gift. Additionally, as found in our survey, a sizable proportion of American residents enjoy receiving gift cards.

Methodology and Caveats

If you’d like to see anymore data from this piece or request any further comment, please contact [email protected]

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