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Study: Men emerge as primary gift card purchasers in the U.S.

gift card
Four in 10 surveyed consumers purchase gift cards directly from the brand.

Contrary to what many people believe, gift cards are not a last-minute afterthought.

The majority (71%) of gift card purchases are planned, indicating a strategic approach to gifting, according to research from branded payments provider Blackhawk Network, The study, which reveals shifting gift card and gifting preferences among U.S. consumers, provides retailers and restaurants with insight into how consumers are using and purchasing gift cards and offers key takeaways on how to maximize gift card programs. 

Among the most notable shifts found in the research: For the first time since Blackhawk started conducting gifting research, men are the primary gift card buyer in the U.S. among survey respondents. 

While men and women are similar in the types of gift cards they plan to purchase in the next year (e.g., single brand vs. multi-brand cards), men tend to purchase more gift cards to electronics and video game retailers than women, who reported purchasing personal care and beauty cards more than men.

Where gift cards are being purchased also continues to evolve. In-store continues to remain a place where consumers purchase gift cards (men are about 20% more likely to purchase physical cards than women), but half of surveyed consumers are also purchasing gift cards through digital channels. When it comes to in-store gift card purchases, consumers overwhelmingly purchase at a store that sells gift cards for a variety of brands (69%). 

In addition, four-in-10 surveyed consumers purchase gift cards directly from the brand. For merchants, in order to maximize sales, they will need to meet consumers everywhere they shop for gift cards.

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Other highlights of the Blackhawk research are below. 

•Surveyed consumers plan to buy more gift cards in 2024, with consumers planning to purchase nine gift cards outside of the winter holiday season on average. 

•When giving gift cards as a gift, a vast majority of surveyed consumers (88%) also purchased other gifts to give alongside a gift card. 

•After receiving a gift card, 58% of surveyed consumers plan to spend more than the value of the gift card. For merchants, these trends present an opportunity to capture increased shopping frequency and cart size, cross-merchandise across categories and drive more store visits.

Thirty percent of surveyed consumers report they have purchased a paper gift card. In addition to the shift to paper gift cards, consumers also continue to increasingly embrace digital. Sixty percent of consumers plan to purchase a digital gift card in 2024, a 6% increase over last year.

“Gift cards remain a win-win for both consumers and retailers, but after years of confusion and anxiety around the economy and the rising cost-of-living, it’s important to continue to reassess how consumers are purchasing and utilizing gift cards,” said Jay Jaffin, chief marketing officer, BHN. “Our research shows that consumers overall continue to value the convenience and flexibility of gift cards, but we’re also seeing shifts in who is buying gift cards and where. These insights offer retailers and restaurants a valuable look at the trends driving consumer gift card usage and how that will impact the way they manage their gift card programs this year and beyond.”

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