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Self-Use of Gift Cards in the United States

Gift card buyers’ purchasing of cards for their own use represents opportunities to retailers

Research from Mercator Advisory Group examines the trend toward U.S. consumers purchasing gift cards for self-use.

A research note from Mercator Advisory Group titled Self-Use of Gift Cards in the United States looks at the growing trend of shoppers buying gift cards for themselves.

Retailer gift cards are one of the most popular gifts in the United States, but it turns out they are an increasingly popular self-use tool, whether as a way to treat one’s self, budget money, or take advantage of rewards programs.

The research note looks at evidence from Mercator Advisory Group’s consumer and retailer surveys that show how the self-use market is growing. It also examines use of digital (or virtual) cards by self-gifters and the benefits to retailers.

"Gift card issuers should consider the value of their gift card programs as more than just a way for customers to give presents; the cards can also serve as a branded currency," Ben Jackson, director of Mercator Advisory Group's Prepaid Advisory Service, and author of the report, comments.

Companies mentioned in this document: Hannaford Supermarkets, Delhaize America, and Toys ‘R’ Us.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The percentage of gift card buyers who say they have purchased a gift card for self-use has steadily climbed since 2013.

  • Card buyers are more likely to use digital cards if they are buying them for self-use than if they are buying them as a gift. 

  • Reload data shows there is a steady portion of loads coming in from people using prepaid/gift cards to which they add funds over time.

  • Retailers can save significantly if customers use prepaid cards as a branded currency, and they should design their programs to help customers to do so.