Although the 2023 holiday shopping season may be over, its aftereffects are only just beginning to make an impact – gift returns may be in the works for some, while other consumers have to contend with their buy now, pay later debt coming due.

But the picture isn’t all coal in the stockings for consumers; some emerged from the holidays with shiny new gift cards to spend. In fact, new CivicScience data among those who celebrated the 2023 holidays find 58% report they received a gift card as a holiday present this year, with more than 3-in-10 receiving multiple gift cards. It’s unsurprising to see the majority receiving a gift card as data prior to the holidays found more Americans planned to give gift cards this year.

Gen Z adults aged 18+ and Millennials (67% and 64%, respectively) are more likely to have received a gift card than Gen X (58%) or adults 55+ (47%).

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Consumers eye their new gift cards to help with essentials.

Unwrapping how consumers have either already spent or plan to spend their gift cards reveals essentials rank as the top choice for gift card usage (37%) – perhaps coinciding with a fresh decline in consumer confidence. Experiences (30%) and clothing/related apparel (29%) round out the most common choices to utilize those leftover gift cards. Highlighting the wide flexibility gift cards can offer, 24% chose ‘other’ for another usage in mind. 

Who are the gift card receivers?

  • Though essentials are their top planned usage for their new gift cards, these consumers are actually five percentage points less likely to cite managing living expenses as their biggest source of financial stress in 2024, compared to those who did not receive a gift card. They’re also three times more likely to list “debt.”
  • Over 2-in-5 (41%) holiday gift card recipients say they do the majority of their retail shopping online, seven points higher than non-receivers. 
  • When shopping for food, nearly half (48%) say brand is more important than price, 12 points higher than non-holiday gift card holders. 

Many gift cards are still sitting in wallets unused.

When asked how many gift cards Americans currently have on hand, nearly 7-in-10 of those who normally receive gift cards say they currently have at least one gift card on hand. Thirteen percent have ‘many’ gift cards, while 1-in-5 respondents say they have imminent plans to spend them. Among holiday gift card recipients, the percentage of those who’ve yet to spend their gift cards jumps to 80%, but roughly one-quarter say they have imminent plans to spend them. 

Take Our Poll: Have you ever re-gifted a gift card?

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