Gift cards are popular, but many go unused--survey

NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Gift cards may be touted as the easiest gift to give, but more and more of them are going unused by forgetful, time-strapped consumers.

A survey released on Monday by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 27 percent of respondents who received gift cards for the holidays last year have not yet used one or more of them -- up from 19 percent at the same time last year.

More than half of those survey respondents said they had not used their card yet because they did not have time, while 35 percent said they could not find anything they wanted. Almost one-third said they did not use their card because they forgot about it.

“That is quite sobering when it comes to the whole notion of the gift card being the perfect gift,” Consumer Reports Senior Editor Tod Marks said in an interview.

Gift card sales have soared in recent years as more companies, ranging from retailers and mall operators to Web sites, sell them and shoppers see them as a quick and easy gift idea.

Archstone Consulting expects sales of gift cards in the United States to jump 25 percent to $35 billion this holiday season.

The Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 adults interviewed between Oct. 18 and 21 found that six in 10 shoppers planned to purchase gift cards this holiday.

But when consumers do not use the cards, they are giving billions of dollars in free money to retailers, Marks said.

He has some simple words of advice for consumers who receive a gift card this holiday season.

“Spend it quickly,” he said. “Cash that card in.”

(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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