20 Gift Card Facts That Are Sure to Surprise You

I bet you don’t think about gift cards as much as we do here at Moola.

We write about gift cards, research gift cards, and tweet all day about, you guessed it, gift cards.

From all this research, I’ve stumbled upon some gift card facts that kind of blew my mind. These are things that I found interesting, concerning, or just made me go…huh.

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There’s also a little bit of history thrown in here too, because haven’t you always wondered where the first gift card came from?

No? Just me? Alright, fair enough.

Here are 20 gift card facts you probably didn’t know.

1. 93% of Americans have given or sent a gift card at some point in their lives

That’s darn near 100% of people, showing just how ubiquitous gift cards are in North American society.

2. The #1 gift card in 2019 was Amazon

Can confirm, I also received an Amazon gift card in 2019.

Their popularity comes from how easy they are to give (it’s all digital), and the flexibility they offer the recipient. Whether you want a dog dryer or dill pickle lip balm, you can find it on Amazon.

https://twitter.com/JoanBennettFan/status/1232542450398453761

3. Gift cards have been the #1 requested gift during the holiday season for 10 years running

Say what you will about giving gift cards as gifts. When the holidays roll around, everyone’s stoked to get a gift card.

That’s why its been the number one requested gift for a decade.

4. People spent on average $213.49 on gift cards during the holidays in 2019.

Considering people buy on average 4 cards per person, that’s about $53 a gift card. I know I wouldn’t mind getting a $53 gift card for Christmas.

5. 35% of shoppers holiday budget is spent on gift cards

Do you spend more or less money when you buy a gift card instead of a gift?

On the one hand, gift cards can help you stick to a budget (e.g. $20 per gift) so you don’t get carried away.

On the other hand, a cute $10 coffee cup makes for a more appropriate gift than a $10 gift card. Either way, turns out we spend over 1/3 of our holiday budget on gift cards. Go figure.

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6. Restaurant gift cards are the most purchased gift card

Despite Amazon taking the cake for the number one gift card spot, restaurant and dining out is the most popular gift card category.

I would say because they’re universal – everyone likes a restaurant, no matter what your age or gender.

Say, I wish I knew where I could get deals and bonuses on restaurant gift cards right on my phone.

Oh yeah, Moola has a ton! You should probably go check out the restaurant brands in Moola right now.

7. $2.5 billion will be spent on gift cards this Mother’s Day

At first glance, I didn’t really understand this one. Not going to lie, a gift card would not be my number one choice for a gift for my Mom.

Then I thought about it, and I remembered how many spa and pedicure gift certificates I gave my mom over the years.

Now I get it.

8. Gift cards accounted for 68% of birthday gifts

That means that almost 3 out of every 4 birthday gifts is a gift card.

Is it lazy gift giving? Or are you giving them exactly what they want?  

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9. 1/3 of people have received a gift card they never used

Chances are, you’ve gotten a gift card you didn’t know what to do with.

Mine was to a yarn and bead shop I’d never heard of.

Still, I used it. And if you’re one of the 33.3% of people not using your free money, you should definitely use it or, at the very least, give it to someone who will.

10. $3 billion in gift cards went unused in 2019

Speaking of unused gift cards, an estimated $3 billion dollars in gift cards went unused last year.

This really only benefits the retailer by giving them free money. So seriously, spend your gift cards people. 

11. Almost half of Starbucks transactions in US and Canada were done with a Starbucks card

Probably because they have a pretty solid rewards program.

A free bakery item for every $25 you spend? Looks like there’s going to be a lot of lemon pound cake in my future.

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12. Chipotle, Starbucks, and Barnes and Noble collected nearly $100 million last year from unredeemed gift cards

In case you still aren’t blown away by the amount of gift card money that gets wasted every year, check out this statistic.

Between these three brands alone (who all have very popular gift card programs by the way), they made $99 million from unredeemed gift cards.

That’s free money for them and wasted guacamole for you.

13. Starbucks drinkers have $1.34 billion in Starbucks gift cards

Here’s another Starbucks fact for you: if Starbucks were a bank, it would be in the top 10% because of its assets.

That’s largely because of its gift cards.

I’ll admit I’m personally contributing to $19.76 to that stack.

14. Digital gift card sales are projected to hit $698.2 billion in 2024

If that sounds like a lot of money, it is.

Digital gift cards are the next big thing, fuelled largely by Millennials and Gen Z. Everything’s becoming digital these days, and gift cards are no exception.

Turns out, we’ve got a few good reasons why you need online gift cards in your life.

https://twitter.com/Keesgaar64/status/1232411296466972679

15. 72% of shoppers spend more than the value of the gift card

3 out of 4 people walk into a store and realize that it probably won’t cover the cost of what they actually want to buy.

Or 3 out of 4 people are left with $4.03 on their gift card and need to spend a few extra bucks to get what they really want.

I am usually one of those 3 people, in both situations.

16. Neiman Marcus had the first gift card in 1994

It was called the NM Express card and it was an absolute disaster. They promoted the card “sparingly” and unfortunately, it was a bit of a flop.

It was available in amounts between $10 and $1,000 and you had to call a toll-free number to check the balance of the card.

Turns out the idea of buying stored value cards to a single store was still a bit too much to wrap your head around in 1994.

17. But Blockbuster was the first to do it successfully in 1996

Blockbuster was the second store to try their hands at gift cards, and they were far more successful in their endeavors.

They tested the concept out regionally before rolling it out across the country in January of 1996.

And in 1997, they released this beauty of a commercial for their gift cards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5YwZFgj24E

Gift cards have stood the test of time. Unfortunately, Blockbuster has not.

18. 5 years later, Starbucks created the first gift card you could use more than once

Finally, in 2001, Starbucks came out with the first reloadable gift card. Before then, gift cards could only be used once before being discarded.

Starbucks revolutionized the game with their gift cards that could be used over and over again. All of a sudden, it was like they were exclusive membership cards as opposed to just gift cards.

We all know how great things have been for Starbucks gift cards since then. I guess they were on to something.

19. Quick-service gift cards are redeemed quicker than any other gift card

These are gift cards for places like McDonald’s, Chipotle, and you guessed it, Starbucks.

Quick-service gift cards are easy to spend, and you don’t need to change your lifestyle much to use them. You also usually don’t have to spend much more than the value of the card, making them an appealing choice.

So next time you’re thinking twice about buying your brother a McDonald’s gift card, remember he’ll probably use it quicker.

20. Men spend more on gift cards than women

Would a list of facts and statistics really be complete without an arbitrary comparison between men and women?

Turns out, men spend slightly more on gift cards than women, $162.01 and $144.62 respectively. That’s only about a $20 difference which, according to most averages, won’t even cover the cost of one gift card.

And the age that’s spending the most on gift cards? Grandma and Grandpa of course, spending on average $186.44 on gift cards every year.

We love our grandparents.

 lightbulb and idea and gift card facts

Did these gift card facts make you feel smarter?

There you have it, 20 gift card facts and statistics you probably didn’t know. 21 if you count that little bonus at the end.

Maybe I’ve inspired you to take a deeper dive in to the world of gift card facts. Maybe you want to read everything you can about these underrated little gems.

Here you can read all about how you can save more money with gift cards.

Or you can check out the benefits of shopping with gift cards (as opposed to regular cash or credit).