by Deanna Ting | December 10, 2014
A new survey from Portland, ME-based CashStar reveals that a majority of consumers would prefer to receive gift cards instead of physical gifts, but many feel guilty for admitting that they want to receive them. The findings of this CashStar survey expand on the National Retail Federation's Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, which indicates that gift cards are the most requested holiday gift item for the eighth year in a row.
According to CashStar's survey of more than 1,100 U.S. consumers, 60 percent said gift cards to their favorite retailers, restaurants, and brands are on their wish list this year. Among 35 to 44 year-olds, nearly 70 percent said they would like to receive gift cards from their favorite, retailers, restaurants, and brands. However, 30 percent of those surveyed said they would feel guilty asking for gift cards as a holiday gift, citing some of the following reasons: they don't like asking for anything (62 percent); it feels the same as asking for cash (61 percent); and it doesn't feel personal enough (45 percent).
Gift givers, on the other hand, indicated that being asked for a gift card for the holidays makes shopping easy. Seventy-eight percent said their reaction would be, "Great, that's an easy gift to buy and check off my list." This number jumps to 87 percent among grandparents. Only 9 percent of all respondents said they would feel awkward buying a gift with a clear monetary value associated with it.
Additionally, the survey found that:
• Fifty-five percent of respondents prefer receiving gift cards versus physical gifts, jumping to 61 percent among 35 to 44 year-olds
• The most appealing thing about receiving a gift card, according to respondents, is the ability to treat themselves to something they really want (77 percent), followed by being able to buy things they really need instead of being given more "stuff" (66 percent) and being able to purchase an item that they wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford by applying the gift card balance (51 percent)
• Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said they feel less guilty spending money on something for themselves when they are able to pay with the gift cards they receive. This number jumps to 79 percent among 18-24 year olds and 78 percent among 25-34 year olds. Overall, women feel far less guilty (74 percent) compared to men (57 percent) when using gift cards to pay for a purchase.
• Across the U.S., Northeasterners feel the most guilt associated with asking for cards (34 percent) compared to those who live in the South (26 percent)
• The features offered by retailers, restaurants, and brands that reduce guilt around giving gift cards include: special packaging for plastic gift cards (38 percent); the ability to save gift cards to mobile wallets / apps / phone so the recipient has the gift card whenever they want to use it (24 percent); and the ability to add a customized text greeting (23 percent)
"Digital gift cards and the ability to personalize them with photos, videos and special messages have helped change the perception of gift cards being 'impersonal' gifts.  As the survey showed, consumers prefer to receive gift cards and are also delighted to give them," said Ben Kaplan, president and CEO of CashStar. "But some consumers still feel guilty asking for gift cards. Clearly, it's time for people to get over any lingering gift card guilt."