If someone is hard to shop for, or if gift givers want to avoid inflationary price tags that can come with physical presents, a gift card makes for an easy yet good gift. Despite their popularity, especially for the upcoming holiday season, consumers don’t always spend their gift cards.  

In fact, survey results show that half of U.S. adults currently have an unused gift card sitting in their wallet or home (n=3,153). One-in-ten respondents say they’re sitting on many gift cards and more than a quarter are holding on to a few, without plans to use them in the near future. 

So, what’s the biggest reason people don’t spend them? Among consumers with unused gift cards, forgetting about them ranks as the top reason (56%). Taking second is not typically shopping at the store or restaurant that issued them (22%).

There’s clearly a lot of gift card money that goes untouched. And, companies record these unclaimed gift cards as revenue. For instance, Starbucks reported tens of millions of dollars in unused gift cards, which were recorded as sales. 

So, how much do consumers have in unused gift cards? Survey data show that more than half of consumers with unused gift cards currently have less than $100 untouched, and nearly a quarter have between $100-$199.

When it comes to how people spend their gift cards, roughly 6-in-10 gift card users report they are more likely to spend them in stores, while just under 4-in-10 are likely to spend them online.

Interestingly, a slightly larger percentage of Americans say they prefer receiving gift cards (51%) over physical gifts (49%) for special occasions. On the other end, people are much more likely to give physical gifts (58%) over gift cards (42%). 

While gift cards don’t always convert to a purchase, as many sit on them and forget that they have them, they still remain a popular gift option. As we make our way into the upcoming holiday season, gift card sitting may become more prevalent.