Will Gift Cards Migrate To Mobile Wallets?

Holiday shoppers have traditionally purchased gift cards to give the recipient the option to select something of their own choosing, but more than one third (34%) of U.S. shoppers buy gift cards for both gifts and self-use: 6% buy gift cards exclusively for self-use, according to a study from the Retail Gift Card Association.

The top reasons for self-use are to qualify for special loyalty deals or discounts (45%) and to help stick to a budget (35%).

While 46% of Americans prefer to hand cashiers a physical gift card, 14% would prefer to load all their gift cards into a mobile wallet for easier storage and redemption. Growth in the latter option is likely, since 40% of consumers are open to using either option.


The RGCA consumer gift card study was conducted via independent online survey in April 2016 with more than 1,000 adult respondents. The sample was representative of the adult U.S. population in terms of education, income and gender.

“We have seen incredible innovation in gift cards recently, with the proliferation of e-gifts, gift card integration into mobile wallets, the emergence of gift card exchanges, and exciting new options like hyper-local gifting,” said Timm Walsh, Board Chairman of the RGCA. “Shoppers appear to be embracing these new options, all the while maintaining a demand for traditional plastic gift cards — 76% plan to buy them this year.”

While physical gift cards remain consumers’ top choice, 47% of shoppers are more likely to buy an e-gift instead of a plastic gift card if it’s part of a promotion.

Shoppers’ top reasons for e-gifting are:

  • 42% need the gift to be delivered right away;

  • 23% are buying for younger recipients who live a digital lifestyle; and

  • 21% want to avoid crowds.

However, many consumers want gift cards found within a local establishment, with half of shoppers interested in buying gift cards from neighborhood, independent and boutique retailers in their local communities.

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