by Alex Palmer | June 26, 2013
Consumers express a high level of satisfaction with gift cards, but a majority says they expect to use them for necessities, rather than redeeming them for an out-of-the-ordinary treat, a new study finds. A report on the attitudes of users of gift cards from the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) finds that only 30.6 percent of respondents said they would purchase something with a gift card that they would not normally buy. 

The survey, which drew on the responses of more than 1,000 consumers about their behaviors and preferences for giving and receiving gift cards, found that 69.4 percent of individuals prefer to use their cards for something they needed, or to put toward a larger purchase.

“This is indicative of the American consumer's response to the state of today's economy,” said Rebekka Rea, executive director of the Retail Gift Card Association. “Consumer confidence is low at the moment, which lends itself to purchasing more practical items. When budgets are tight, gift card recipients may choose to redeem their gift card for items like food, fuel and clothing, school supplies, etc.” 

She added that in contrast, when budgets are a little looser, gift cards tend to be viewed as “found money” and are put toward “more aspirational and less practical purchases.” 

But while the survey found that budget concerns continue to dominate gift-card behavior, consumers express a high level of interest in giving and receiving cards. The report found that 91.4 percent of respondents plan to give one to three gift cards in the next three months. 

“The increase in planned gift card gifting reflects the high level of confidence that consumers have in gift cards,” said Rea.  “Closed loop and retail branded gift cards never expire and never have fees, which ensures the recipient receives full value of the card.”

The research looked at some specific categories of gift card spending, finding that 88.5 percent of respondents redeem a retail gift card within six months of receiving, and 73.2 percent prefer to give a gift card when it is meant to come from a group of people or colleagues. 

For additional information on the report, visit