Most consumers prefer gift cards to gifts, but many feel guilty asking for them

Nov. 24, 2014

Gift cards have topped holiday wish lists among Americans of all ages year after year. A new survey from CashStar reveals that a majority of consumers would like to receive gift cards instead of physical gifts, but many feel guilty admitting that they want to receive them. The findings of the CashStar survey expand on the National Retail Federation's Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, which indicates gift cards are the most requested gift item for the eighth year in a row.

According to the 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, jumping to nearly 70 percent among 35-44 year-olds. Yet, 30 percent said they feel guilty asking for them, citing several 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. Just 9 percent of all respondents said they would feel awkward buying a gift with a clear monetary value associated with it.

Other survey results include:

  • Fifty-five percent of respondents prefer receiving gift cards versus physical gifts, jumping to 61 percent among 35-44 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 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), 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)

Topics: Consumer Behavior, Marketing, Payments


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