New Report from Blackhawk Network Examines Latest Consumer Gift Card Preferences and Use Cases in the U.S.

Latest research offers insight into consumer gift card and shopping preferences as consumers return to socializing

PLEASANTON, Calif.--()--As consumers reconnect with the world around them, new research1 from Blackhawk Network, a leader in global branded payments, highlights shopping patterns and preferences, providing retail marketers with insight into consumer gift card usage. Today’s consumers are more comfortable than ever shopping online, in-store or both. According to the research, retailers need to be prepared to give consumers more hybrid online/in-store shopping options, ramp up the focus on self-use gift cards and adapt for the next generation of up-and-coming gift card users. These are among the findings of the research, which examined overall shopping behaviors in addition to gift card usage and preferences.

“Retailers have learned how to be nimble to tackle many of the hurdles thrown their way over the last few years. Now, retailers must accommodate the latest shopper preferences, while also managing the demand for hybrid shopping flexibility, cost of goods and other economic challenges,” said Jay Jaffin, chief marketing officer, Blackhawk Network. “Our new research offers marketers a valuable look into how to implement or adapt gift card and payments programs, which have proven to offer impactful solutions to many of the shifting trends retailers are seeing today and will see in the future.”

Key trends in consumer gift card preferences and shopping behaviors include:

The rise of the hybrid shopper

Today’s consumers are equally comfortable buying online to pick up in-store—or buying in-store and shipping it. Recent findings2 from the National Retail Federation and IBM show that 45% of shoppers shop in-store versus online, with 28% reporting they are hybrid shoppers and 27% opting for online only. With the shift in consumer preferences to a hybrid shopping experience, the gap between physical and digital gift cards is also closing.

  • Self-use: To supplement their hybrid shopping preferences, consumers are increasingly purchasing self-use gift cards. Retailers can make shopping easier for hybrid and self-use shoppers by taking steps to integrate digital gift cards into the in-store experience. Fifty-eight percent of consumers surveyed report that they purchase self-use gift cards. Their top reasons for buying gift cards for self-use include: it’s a faster way to pay for things (53%), to take advantage of promotions/discounts/points offers (45%) and to use as cash for digital purchases (40%).
  • Where Americans shop: Surveyed consumers utilize hybrid shopping the most in apparel & footwear (35%), home goods (31%), personal care & beauty (29%) and grocery (19%).

Gift cards can ease pain points and engage shoppers

Retailers have turned to gift cards as a meaningful solve for many of the challenges they have faced over the last few years, including returns, warranties and out-of-stock items. Gift cards also offer retailers the opportunity to meaningfully engage shoppers who tend to spend more than the value of a gift card. For many consumers, a gift card is a nudge to go back to their favorite store or buy something they’ve already had their eye on.

  • Overspend: Depending on the value of the gift card, up to 90% of consumers are willing to spend more than the dollar amount on the gift card. On average, consumers will spend $51 more than the value of a $10 gift card and up to $106 more than the value of a $500 gift card.

Understanding Gen Z: the next generation of gift card users

Gen Z is one of the world’s most influential generations, and their spending power is on the rise. Serving as the blueprint for future generations, marketers should take note and adjust for the next generation of gift card users.

  • They shop differently: More than any other generation surveyed, Gen Z loves retail therapy and shopping for fun. Thirty-eight percent of surveyed Gen Z shoppers report shopping as a form of retail therapy versus 23% for other generations. They are also most likely to purchase self-use gift cards with 18% of Gen Zs using gift cards as cash for digital purchases and more than 10% reporting they purchase self-use gift cards because they don’t have a credit or debit card.
  • What they’re buying: When it comes to receiving gift cards as gifts, a separate Blackhawk study of Gen Z graduates found that more than half plan on spending gift cards they receive on something they already needed. The most desired gift card categories among those surveyed are: Visa/Mastercard, gaming, fashion stores, restaurants and mass merchants.

To learn more about American gift card use and preferences, download the ebook “From Pandemic to Endemic: Understanding the Next Stage in American Gift Card Use”.

Blackhawk Network works with approximately 37,000 corporate and government partners and has approximately 400,000 channel touchpoints around the world. Blackhawk connects with more than 300 million shoppers worldwide daily.

About Blackhawk Network

Blackhawk Network delivers payment solutions through the prepaid products, technologies and network that connect brands and people. We collaborate with our partners to innovate, translating market trends in branded payments to increase reach, loyalty and revenue. We reliably execute security-minded solutions worldwide. Join us as we shape the future of global branded payments. Learn more at

1 The Global State of the Union Insights study was conducted on behalf of Blackhawk Network in March 2022. The sample size included. 2,165 respondents ages 18+.
2 “Consumers Want it All: Hybrid Shopping, Sustainability, and Purpose Driven Brands” published by NRF and IBM in January 2022. The sample size included 19,100 respondents age 18+ in 28 countries.


Courtney Brunkow
(303) 717-9575


Courtney Brunkow
(303) 717-9575