More choices in gift cards are available this year, according to a new study done by Bankrate owned CreditCards.com.
According to the new study, gift cards are a popular gift with consumers. “In fact, the gift card market is growing at least as fast as the general consumer spending market.” said Michael Hursta, vice president of First Data Prepaid Services, in CreditCards.com’s summary of the study.
The study found that there are more choices in gift cards this year. More than half of the 63 companies surveyed have ecards (digital gift cards) available. For some, including Pizza Hut, Best Buy, Gap and American Express, this is the first year they have offered ecards.
Overall, gift cards are a $91 billion dollar market, and are expected to reach $100 billion next year. Ecards are a growing part of that. “There have been 6 million e-gift card purchases in the past six months,” said David Stone, chief executive officer at CashStar, The report stated that there are now three varieties of ecards available, those that are sent by email (the most widely used), mobile gifting through smartphone apps, and social gifting such as Amazon’s system of allowing the giver to post a gift ecard on the receiver’s Facebook page. “Social gifting is growing at a rate of about 400 percent,” Stone said.
The study found that store-brand gift cards typically have fewer fees. They did find two, HEB grocery store and Pilot Travel Center, that included dormancy or maintenance fees.
Some bank-issued gift cards have become “more consumer-friendly” over the past year. The report noted that Fifth Third Bank and Key Bank both dropped their fees. But others, including Wells Fargo Visa, Harris Bank MasterCard and American Express. Discover, Chase Visa and U.S. Bank Visa, continue to charge dormancy or maintenance fees.
Banks also tend to have expiration dates on their cards more often than store-brand gift cards, the report said. While the study found that most gift cards overall do not have an expiration, Fifth Third Bank MasterCard, Harris Bank MasterCard, Chase Visa, U.S. Bank Visa and Wells Fargo Visa were all listed as having gift cards that do expire.
The survey included gift cards from 63 major restaurants, retailers, airlines and other businesses. It was conducted from late September to early October, 2011.