by Leo Jakobson | November 24, 2015
Incentive planners prefer credit-card-branded debit gift cards to retailer-issued gift cards, according to the Incentive Research Foundation's most recent Pulse Survey, released in October.

The Fall 2015 Pulse Survey asked planners and managers of non-cash incentive programs what types of merchandise and gift card awards they offer. While electronics was number one, with 31 percent using it, credit-card-branded debit gift cards (also known as "open-loop" gift cards) were second, with 28 percent. Retailer-issued gift cards (aka "closed-loop" cards) were in eleventh place, with 12 percent. After that came "restricted" cards -- essentially open-loop cards that can only be used at certain merchants -- with 11 percent. 

In addition, corporate incentive program managers were far less likely to use retailer-issued and restricted gift cards than program managers from third-party incentive provider firms.

While both groups were about as likely to use open-loop gift cards -- 38 percent for third party planners versus 35 percent for corporate planners -- about one-fifth of incentive house planners said they used retailer closed-loop cards, compared to just 7 percent of corporate planners. Seventeen percent of incentive house planners used restricted cards, compared to just 4 percent of corporate planners. 

Looking ahead, corporate incentive managers were more positive about gift cards in general than incentive house planners. Twenty-four percent of corporate Pulse Survey respondents said they plan to add or increase the use of gift cards in their programs, compared to 17 percent of incentive house respondents. And while 11 percent of incentive house planners planned decrease use of gift cards, no corporate planners said they planned to cut them.