Gift cards bigger than many national economies

Sales of gift cards in the U.S. will top $118 billion this year, an amount that’s larger than the GDP of 136 countries.

Arlington-based Corporate Executive Board’s annual CEB TowerGroup research says total gift card giving this year will be almost 8 percent higher than last year, and is poised to top $140 billion by 2016.

By 2015, gift cards will account for 18 percent of holiday shopping, CEB says.

Universal gift cards, those carrying the Visa or MasterCard logo that can be used for any purchase, account for the majority of gift cards, followed by gift cards tied to specific retailers.

Gift cards for specific restaurants are the third-most popular to give.

Fewer gift cards are going to waste.

The federal CARD Act put severe limits on expiration dates, fees and use charges. As a result, CEB says “spillage,” or gift cards that go unused, is now less than one percent.


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