Gift cards really are the new fruitcake: Research from CEB TowerGroup, which has tracked gift card sales and use since 2006, finds that this year, 85% of Americans can expect to get one. Sales of gift cards are expected to top $110 billion. Another change, it says, is that “spillage” -- industry speak for the little bits of cash left over on cards that typically go to waste for consumers -- is expected to fall 20%, to $1.7 billion. And despite lots of hype, sales of electronic gift cards are only expected to reach $3 billion.
Gift card growth has been improved by card purchases from American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover (about $40 billion in sales), as well as restaurant gift cards ($19 billion) and merchant cards ($36 billion).