Report: $46 Billion Spent on Gift Cards in 2016

Employers spent $7 billion on cards for employees

Gift Card Purchase

Consumers gave the gift of gift cards in 2016 -- spending $46 billion on cards over the year, a large percentage of that spent during the holidays. These are some of the details outlined in a new report from Packaged Facts, a consumer research division of 

The report, "Prepaid and Gift Cards in the U.S., 5th Edition," examines the gift card market, segmenting it into givers and recipients. Altogether, it estimates ("conservatively" as Packaged Facts puts it) that over the past 12 months, Americans spent $28 billion on gift cards for others and $11 billion on gift cards for themselves. An additional $7 billion was spent by employers for cards given to employees.

"The winter holidays have passed, but America's retail sector has likely only begun to see the full influx of shoppers wielding gift cards given to them as Christmas presents or for some other special occasion during 2016," the organization wrote in a press release announcing the findings.

Unsurprisingly, the holidays remain the biggest gift-card giving occasion by dollar value, with shoppers spending more than $9 billion on cards marked for Christmas -- 33 percent of all the money spent on gift cards for others. This was followed by birthdays, on which $7 billion was expended. Slightly more than one-quarter of gift-card spending on others (26 percent) was spent on others not for any specific holiday, but instead for "doing something nice," "rewarding someone," and "to say thank you." 

The report also breaks down gift card spending by age, finding that those aged 25-34 spend the most on others -- $7 billion, or 26 percent of the total. Adults aged 35-44 spent $6 billion on others, while the younger Millennials (aged 18-24) spent the least of any demographic. As for spending money on gift cards for oneself, both those aged 25-34 and 35-44 spent about $3 billion.

"Fact is, gift cards have become not only an acceptable substitute for more traditional gift options, but are increasingly expected and eagerly used, especially among 'older' Millennial adults," added Packaged Facts. 

The full report of "Prepaid and Gift Cards in the U.S., 5th Edition," is available (for a substantial fee) at Packaged Facts website.