by Alex Palmer | November 22, 2016
As the holidays approach, a majority of consumers say they are planning to give gift cards, new research from financial research firm Bankrate finds. But while gift cards are a popular choice to give, just 27 percent of consumers say they would rather have a gift card instead of a merchandise gift over the holidays.

The study, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of Bankrate, drew on the responses of 1,000 adults in the U.S. It found that a majority of consumers in every age group surveyed -- except those 62 and older -- expected to give at least some store-branded or open-loop (credit card branded) cards over the holiday season. Looking at individual generations, the age group most likely to prefer gift cards was younger Millennials (ages 18-25), 34 percent of who said they preferred gift cards. At the same time, 57 percent of that age group said they prefer a tangible gift, making them also the most likely to prefer these gifts. 

That said, while gift cards are often cited as an ideal gift for a recipient who is hard to shop for, the responses made clear that plenty of thought goes into the purchase of a gift card. A majority (57 percent) of respondents said they buy a gift card because they think it is the best gift for the recipient -- in fact, only 22 percent said they would buy gift cards when other possibilities did not inspire them, and just 11 percent said that most or all of their presents would be gift cards. Just 9 percent of respondents said they buy gift cards as a last-minute present, compared to 12 percent who said they expect to make or have made their first gift card purchase before Thanksgiving.