Americans Prefer General Purpose Gift Cards

NEW YORK, Nov. 18, 2013 - According to new research by, only one in nine brand-specific gift cards charge purchase fees, versus 100% of general-purpose gift cards. Of the 55 widely-held brand-specific cards that include retailers, restaurants, airlines and gas stations, only three charge a purchase fee to all customers, and three others charge a purchase fee in some instances. That contrasts sharply with the seven general-purpose cards with an American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa logo, all of which charge purchase fees.

Gift cards have been the most popular gift choice for the past five years, according to the National Retail Federation. Bankrate found that just over half of Americans (53%) prefer general-purpose gift cards. Two-thirds of people who make more than $75,000 a year prefer general-purpose gift cards.

"While most Americans prefer to receive general-purpose gift cards because they can be used almost anywhere, they should be aware of the fees these cards charge both purchasers and recipients," said Janna Herron, credit card analyst, "For example, all of the general-purpose cards that we surveyed charge the purchaser up to $6.95, and 71% charge dormancy or maintenance fees to the recipient. None of the brand-specific cards charge dormancy or maintenance fees."

Additional Findings

Almost two in three Americans have given a gift card, and more than three in four have received one. The most common value of gift cards, both given and received, is between $25 and $50. People over 65 and those between 18 and 29 years old are the least likely to give a gift card. As income level increases, Americans are more likely to give and receive gift cards. 53% of the gift cards that surveyed can be reloaded, up slightly from 51% last year. 56% can be delivered electronically, in line with each of the past two years. 69% of gift card issuers will replace the card and/or funds in the event of loss or theft.