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):
- 17% of the US population would opt for a gift card as their preference when it comes to receiving gifts
- However, not too far off double (32.2%) would just prefer the cash!
- Amazon is the most popular gift card (based on search volume) in the USA, with 269,000 people hitting Google each month in the US to search for “Amazon gift cards”
- Walmart and Target take second and third place with 110,000 and 96,900 monthly gift card searches each respectively
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?
- A surprise gift
- A gift card
- A specific item or gift I’ve asked for
- Other (please specify)
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 SearchSearches (USA) in December 2020Sell gift cards online12,100Sell gift cards for cash12,100Sell gift cards for cash instantly near me9,900Sell gift cards online instantly9,900
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.
KeywordAverage Monthly Searches USA (Average of past 12 months)Amazon gift card269,000Walmart gift card110,000Target gift card96,900iTunes gift card85,000Apple gift card79,400Home Depot gift card338,00Costco gift card30,400Best Buy gift card24,900Lowes gift card24,700Kroger gift card18,600Macys gift card17,700Nordstrom gift card17,400Giant eagle gift card13,700TJ Maxx gift card13,600Kohls gift card12,800Walgreens gift card12,500CVS gift card12,500Publix gift card10,700Aldi gift card7,600Wayfair 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:
- 730 are for Starbucks
- 514 are for Amazon
- 234 are for Walmart
- 116 are for Target
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.
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
- Survey data obtained using Google Surveys. 3,001 responses collected from people in the USA between 18th March and 14th April 2021
- Search data gathered using KWFinder (premium subscription) which estimates search volumes in Google. 1 search does not necessarily mean one person searching. Some users may search multiple times
If you’d like to see anymore data from this piece or request any further comment, please contact [email protected]
About Denny Vuong
Denny is a passionate deal hunter and full stack software engineer. He is the co-founder of DealDrop.com and leads the tech team.