Survey: Gift Cards Remain A Top Incentive Item

To Tune Of $22.7 Billion Annually

Gift Cards Remain A Top Incentive ItemThe majority of U.S. businesses use gift cards to reward employees, company partners and customers, spending $22.7 billion annually, according to a new study released by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). Data shows 59% of U.S. companies employ non-cash award programs and 52% use gift cards, frequently incentivizing staff members.

"The economy over the past years has affected many things, but the research confirms that the use of gift cards in business is still very strong," said Betty Weinkle, past president of the Incentive Gift Card Council. "We find that the convenience, variety and desirability of gift cards contribute to their ability to motivate, reward and recognize."

Open prepaid cards (which can be used almost anywhere) and closed-loop cards (which are accepted by one vendor) are much more often used by businesses than restricted and virtual cards. About 70% use open cards, 54% use closed-loop, 14% use virtual and 12% use restricted cards, according to survey data. Large businesses are more likely to use a card provider that delivers different types of cards, while smaller firms are more likely to go directly to retailers for card purchases.

Survey respondents expect their future business spending on gift cards will either remain the same or increase, the IRF report said.