Launching a gift card program is not easy, but retailers can draw inspiration from some of the most successful examples on the market right now – and where better to start than the top 10 most popular gift cards of 2023?
Such an exclusive list tends to contain a wide variety of brands that cater to different target audiences, but all the best gift card promotion ideas contain qualities that any business can emulate within their program.
But what are these?
We decided to research and examine the top 10 most popular gift cards of 2023 and determine what it is that made them such a hit with the public.
Read on to find out what these are, what sets them apart, and what they all have in common.
4 things the most popular gift cards have in common
Pigeon-holing gift cards into a narrow range of products is a source of frustration among customers.
It’s also a big reason each US consumer has an average of $187 in unused gift card credit in 2023, according to a survey by financial service Bankrate.
Unused credit is not only bad for the consumer but also the retailer behind the gift card. if they know they’ve wasted money, people are more likely to refrain from using the card again, or the brand behind it.
Making sure customers can use gift cards for a wide range of products is the best way to cut down on unused credit, and many of the best gift cards have this variety in abundance.
2. Widespread appeal
It’s one thing offering versatility, but if customers don’t want to shop at the gift card brands on offer then the program is likely to crash and burn.
An Apple gift card is one obvious choice, but plenty of smaller brands are attractive options, too, including ‘buzz’ brands of the moment like Crypto Voucher and GameStop.
3. Available as both physical and digital gift cards
Physical gift cards are declining in use, but consumers prefer to have the choice.
An e-gift card dropped into a digital wallet is certainly convenient, but there’s no denying that having something tangible in your hands feels more like a gift.
Retailers that are flexible with these formats are more likely to have success than those that firmly stick to one or the other.
4. Backed up by quality and trust
Connecting a gift card to brands with a solid reputation for security and fairness is a sure-fire way to drum up sales.
Many consumers, particularly of older generations, mistrust online or app-based brands so offering gift cards for solid brands helps to win them over.
Making the top 10 most popular gift cards might be out of reach for most brands, but business decision-makers responsible for creating a great gift card program can still follow the above criteria.
They can also take a look at some of the most successful examples on the market right now and learn lessons from what they’ve done.
So let’s cut to the chase: what have been the most popular gift cards out there in 2023?
Want to find out how gift cards can unlock a lucrative long-term revenue stream for your business? Sign up for Reloadly and learn more about how our gift card API and plugin integration can get you up and running in minutes.
The top 10 most popular gift cards in 2023 (USA)
Choosing the right gift card can be an overwhelming task for customers faced with thousands of options, particularly during the holiday season when marketing campaigns go into overdrive.
Retailers can make this choice easier for them by presenting their customers with the gift card brands most likely to be a hit.
These brands are likely to contribute to a popular staff rewards program, too, with employees being consumers themselves.
But how do they know which ones to go for?
We’ve researched the latest data from various sources across the web to come up with a ranked list of the top 10 most popular gift cards on the market right now.
1. Amazon: The best buy in 2023
The best buy in 2023 is the supremely versatile Amazon gift card.
This card is famous for the sheer scale of items that customers can use their credit on, from music downloads to home goods and grocery store products.
Whoever the customer gives the card to, they’re bound to want to spend it on something, be it a loved one, a colleague, or a neighbor.
This gift card is also famous for its low-hassle instant redemption, a feature it’s had for several years. Users often receive it by email, then they simply click on the link, and the gift card amount lands in their account balance.
A 2023 study by marketing intelligence firm Morning Consult has Amazon as the most trusted brand among US consumers, and its gift card embodies many of the trust drivers that customers value, including in-stock products and a multi-brand environment.
Amazon’s gift card boasts several consumer trust features
Source: Morning Consult
Claire Tassin, Morning Consult Lead Retail & E-Commerce Analyst sums this up by saying “Amazon gets shoppers’ key trust drivers right — namely, keeping products in stock and offering robust ratings and reviews to ensure that products meet expectations”
When we add all these features together, it’s no wonder that Amazon’s gift card will be at the top of the charts going into 2024.
2. Visa: High levels of quality and trust
Visa, of course, is more famous for its debit and credit cards, but it’s also behind some very successful gift cards.
Visa gift cards benefit from the omnipresence of their bank cards and are accepted across the world by retailers, restaurants, and many other outlets.
They also come with a solid reputation for quality and trust, which is also a great boon for sales. The Morning Consult study has Visa down as the US’s most trusted card brand among consumers, with the most weekly users and highest levels of favorability.
The 5 most trusted payment methods (US)
Source: Morning Consult
Charlotte Principato, the study’s Lead Financial Services Analyst, believes this is thanks to the card’s universal familiarity: “Every time a consumer taps their Visa card or sees the symbol in a storefront signaling that Visa is accepted there, they build a stronger positive association with the brand,” she says. “The accumulation of those positive experiences is a bulwark against any potential negative buzz or event”
A Visa gift card also comes with the bonus of being ATM-friendly so if the recipient just wants the cash instead, they can just withdraw it.
All of these positives explain why a Visa gift card ranks so highly on this year’s list – and why a brand can’t go wrong if it offers it as a consumer product.
3. Target: A trusted retailer with no card expiry
A Target gift card is another that scores highly on the versatility scale. The mass retailer has something for everyone, from cooking utensils for foodies to Nike products for sports enthusiasts.
Trust is another big factor. Everyone in the United States has heard of Target and most people have had a positive experience shopping there.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks it as one of the US’s most trusted merchandise retailers in 2023, with a satisfaction rating of 78%.
Source: CFI Group
The card also comes with no expiry date so the recipient can redeem it when they like, although this does make them more likely to put it to one side and forget about it.
4. Starbucks: Big resale value
Coffee is a big deal in the United States, so a Starbucks gift card is always going to be popular.
The brand has a huge amount of locations across the country where the holder can redeem their credit and they can do it in several ways, including a plastic card, email, and even an iMessage.
This card comes out top in personal finance firm WalletHub’s 2023 study which uses another ranking system to score cards. These are based on several factors including their popularity, buyer discount, resale value, and retailer rating.
Scoring 70 out of a possible 100, it has an average resale value of $77.62 and a buyer discount of over 5%, both important factors for retailers to consider.
WalletHub’s 2023 gift card rankings
5. Sephora: Excellent customer service
Second on that WalletHub list above is makeup and skincare brand Sephora which boasts an extensive range of beauty products for consumers to use their credit on.
A Sephora gift card comes with a solid average buyer discount of just over 3%, potentially worth a lot of money when applied to some of their expensive makeup kits, and they also have a handsome resale value of over $80.
Sephora also has a reputation for excellent customer service, which reduces the chances of the cardholder having a bad time and associating it with the gift card.
6. American Express: Huge credit capacity
Another glance at the trusted payment provider list above will show you American Express (Amex) in fourth place, a company that 95% of US consumers are aware of.
Amex gift cards can hold up to $3,000 in credit, making them a popular option for more affluent consumers, and most major retailers and online merchants across the US will accept them.
One thing to look out for is a $3.95 shipping fee for each card, which may affect retailers with tight profit margins.
Still, Amex remains one of the most popular banking gift cards on the market.
7. Disney: Versatile cross-platform card
A Disney gift card is suitable for several gift ideas. It can be offset against the entry price to Disney resorts and theme parks, making it a great holiday gift, or simply redeemed for the galaxy of Disney products that are on sale online and in-store.
Using it for Disney+ subscriptions is another possibility if the giftee enjoys the content that this channel provides. This cross-platform use makes it more versatile than, say, a Netflix gift card which you can only use for its streaming services.
8. eBay: Popular among older consumers
eBay may have a reputation as yesterday’s Amazon, but the platform is still popular in the US, particularly among older consumers.
Like Amazon, consumers can use eBay gift cards for millions of items which makes them ideal as last-minute gifts for someone who can’t think of a suitable present.
Another positive is the fact that eBay credit is automatically converted into the currency of denomination to that of the recipient’s location.
9. iTunes: For the tech-obsessed recipient
Who hasn’t had an iTunes gift card? The platform may not be as popular these days as in its pre-Spotify heyday, but it still offers a diverse set of useful services.
Nowadays, both Google Play and Apple Store users can use these gift cards to buy digital content, including music, TV shows, movies, and books. People can also buy gift cards as subscriptions for their friends, such as a payment toward an Apple Music subscription or iCloud storage payment.
10. Apple: Great for large tech purchases
Hailing from the same company as the iTunes voucher, the Apple gift card tends to be used for larger purchases like a laptop, desktop computer, or Apple TV. This makes it a popular Christmas choice for gift-giving consumers looking to buy something for a tech-obsessed family member.
An Apple gift card can also be used in iTunes and the Apple Store and is at the forefront of a new wave of multi-purpose gift cards that consumers can use in thousands of online stores.
Rolling Stone voted it the best entertainment gift card of the year and may just be the perfect gift choice for someone stuck for present ideas.
[Are you ready to see how gift cards can increase engagement and revenue? Sign up for Reloadly or contact us to learn more about how our digital gift card API lets you sell and send gift cards all over the world.]