Gift Cards Top Holiday Lists Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Gift Cards Top Holiday Lists Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

94% of shoppers expect to buy at least one, whether digital or physical
Wrapping holiday gifts

If you’re not sure what to buy a loved one this holiday season, you can follow the lead of most consumers and get a gift card.

Gift cards, which (mostly) let recipients spend as they please, are the most popular item for holiday shoppers, according to new research from e-commerce solutions provider InComm Payments.

Intent among shoppers to buy a gift card this year rose by 57%, likely a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most shoppers will pick up a gift card or two

More than 9 in 10 shoppers (94%) said they plan to buy one or more gift cards this holiday season. Not only were gift cards the No. 1 choice for shoppers, but they topped the wish lists of recipients as well.

This year, shoppers may have a new reason to turn to gift cards, particularly digital ones. The popularity of digital gift cards is increasing, and nearly 9 in 10 holiday shoppers (89%) said they believe they’re a safe gifting option amid the COVID-19 crisis. That falls in line with other patterns during the pandemic, as shoppers look to apps, online services and other digital offerings that minimize contact with others.

Respondents gave other reasons for turning to digital gift cards this holiday season:

  • 84% said they’re easy to send and receive
  • 70% said they’re as thoughtful as physical gift cards
  • 69% said they’re just as thoughtful as other gifts

Among the most popular types of gift cards are ones for online-exclusive retailers and restaurants.

Safety concerns apparent across the board

Even consumers who decide against giving digital gift cards will likely have safety on their minds this year. Among survey respondents, more than 8 in 10 (84%) said they’re interested in contactless payments to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19. Contactless credit cards also may be a welcome payment tool for those worried about exposure to the coronavirus.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents (74%) said shopping with a retailer that offers a contactless payment option is important to them. On top of that:

  • 75% of shoppers have concerns about exchanging cash
  • 75% are concerned about entering their PIN in a point-of-sale device (30% of which are “highly concerned”)

Some consumers are even willing to skip stores that they don’t believe follow enough safety protocols. While 69% of respondents said they’re likely to visit the same retailers multiple times this holiday season, many added that they would avoid stores that they didn’t deem to be safe. Also, 83% of respondents said they would consider COVID-19 safety protocols when it comes to the holiday gift-return process.

Methodology: InComm Payments surveyed 2,489 consumers about how their gift-buying behaviors will adjust in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 3,120 consumers about how they expect to celebrate the holidays this year. The survey was conducted Sept. 18 and 19, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.