More than $31 billion. That's how much consumers spent on gift cards during the last holiday season, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, making gift cards the most-requested holiday gift for the last eight years in a row.
But gift cards aren't just popular during the winter months: They're year-round staples of incentive programs ranging from consumer promotions to dealer rewards to employee points programs.
One type of reward that heats up in popularity as temperatures rise is the gasoline gift card. According to the Bureau of Transportation, more than 657 million long-distance trips take place every summer in the United States, 90 percent of which take place in personal vehicles. So while gas prices may be down, that hasn't stopped the demand for gas gift cards from skyrocketing, says Paul Kelly, VP of strategic initiatives for SVM
, a large supplier of retail and gasoline cards.
"With summer approaching, we'll see a trend toward gasoline gift cards increasing," Kelly says. "And this summer, every dollar on the card will take you a little bit farther."
Among the hot sellers are the Chevron Texaco and ExxonMobil cards, both offered by SVM.
Another popular gift card sale right now revolves around sports. With baseball season in full swing and football training camp just a few months away, companies are rewarding employees with gift cards redeemable at places where they can congregate to watch their favorite team in action.
Kim Sobasky, director of gift card sales at Buffalo Wild Wings, says the Buffalo cards
(available in denominations from $5 to $250) are very popular in employee points based programs.
"Summer is a great time to kick back with friends and family and watch your favorite game with some beer and wings," Sobasky says. "Who wouldn't appreciate a gift card that would help you do that a little more often?"