Research Outline

Gift Cards in the U.S.


The goal of this research is to identify the amount of money Americans spend on gift cards annually and, of that total, how much goes unused annually. This information will be used for market research purposes.

Early Findings

  • A January 2020 article from CBS News (citing data from Mercator Advisory Group) stated that the percentage of gift card dollars that are unused by Americans each year ranges from one to three percent. Thus, we can use the average of that range (two percent) in our calculation below.
  • From October 2017 to October 2018, $42 billion was spent by Americans on gift cards. If we assume that two percent (previously mentioned) of that total is unused, the annual total of unused gift cards in the U.S. is $840 million ($42 billion x 0.02 (representing two percent)).
  • Of that total ($42 billion), $14 billion worth of gift cards were purchased by Americans for their personal use.
  • A survey conducted in January 2020 found that the total value of "unused gift cards" (overall, not annually) among U.S. adults is approximately $21 billion.
  • That same January 2020 survey determined that an adult in the U.S. has an average of approximately $167 in used gift cards.