When you think of gift cards, you might think of shopping bags filled with purchases from a trip to the mall. But that’s not the only way savvy consumers are using them.
For several years, consumers have increasingly prioritized spending their money on new experiences.
The pandemic has bolstered that interest. As restrictions eased, many of us traveled more, perhaps to make up for lost time. But even this summer, as memories of being stuck at home fade, airline passenger volume has continued to grow.
Against this backdrop, many consumers are turning to gift cards to make their travel experiences easier, more cost-effective, and sometimes even more fun. Here’s why:
Gift cards help with budgeting and managing expenses
While the interest in travel continues, the economy is also a real concern for many consumers.
In a survey Expedia Group conducted last year, more than half of respondents said that inflation would factor into their upcoming travel decisions.
Using gift cards for travel allows consumers to spread out their costs by prepaying for portions of their trip ahead of time. They can also stretch their dollars by being on the lookout for gift card discounts, bonuses, and other promotions that businesses sometimes offer.
Travel gift cards also allow consumers to budget more easily. By predetermining both the merchant and the amount on the card, consumers can be sure they’re spending according to plan.
Experience gift cards can enhance any trip
Some travelers enjoy the act of traveling - getting out of their routine and hitting the road. For others, it’s all about the destination. Either way, personalized experiences are part of the fun.
In the Expedia Group survey, 43% of respondents said that “having new experiences” had become more important in their travel decisions since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Runa’s State of Loyalty Rewards Report, 33% of survey respondents cited the opportunity to receive experience-based rewards - like gift cards for tours or spa visits - as a reason to consider switching to different loyalty programs.
Whether they’re looking for some relaxing “me time” or exciting new adventures, travelers can use experience gift cards for local establishments to more fully explore their destinations - or their stops along the way.
Travel gift cards make flexible and convenient gifts
Fiserv research shows that businesses increasingly reward employees with gift cards for a job well done. In fact, the number of people who received a gift card as an incentive from an employer nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022 (32% v. 60%).
Gift cards make giving the gift of travel possible without limiting where the recipient can go. Many popular gift cards for airlines and hotel booking sites have no expiration dates, which means the recipient can use them whenever they choose.
Plus, today’s digital options make paying for travel-related expenses with gift cards even more convenient. Instead of carrying a stack of physical gift cards with them, travelers can load both physical and digital gift cards onto their mobile devices.
And who says you can’t provide your own perks? Consumers can gift themselves by redeeming points for cards they can use when they’re ready, making these cards a great option for loyalty and rewards programs.
Travelers can use gift cards to support their values
Many consumers today are keeping corporate responsibility, sustainability, and other issues they’re concerned about in mind as they decide where to spend their money.
Nearly three-fourths (71%) of respondents in a Fiserv study said they consider spending more with businesses that support similar values.
Consumers are also prioritizing local and small businesses in their purchasing decisions. In a TripAdvisor survey, 34% of American respondents said it was more important to them now to enjoy “authentic local experiences” when traveling than it was before the pandemic.
By planning ahead and choosing gift cards specifically for businesses that align with their personal convictions, travelers can put their purchasing power to work supporting the issues they care about, even while they’re on the road.
Gift cards can help manage risk
Experts often advise travelers to carry diverse sources of funds when they travel internationally. Gift cards are a great way to minimize risk for a couple of reasons. One, if a thief gets hold of a gift card, they have access only to the funds loaded on that card, rather than an entire bank account or credit line.
Second, redeeming travel gift cards ahead of time allows users to lock in their currency conversions at that rate, protecting against future currency fluctuations. International credit card transactions are converted when the transaction takes place, which could lead to rate surprises if a currency is volatile.
Whether consumers are trying to maximize their budgets in the face of inflation or simply enhance their experiences, they can use gift cards for their travel planning in diverse and creative ways.
In an upcoming post, we’ll take an even closer look at more specific ways consumers are leveraging travel gift cards. But it’s clear that the benefits of flexibility, convenience, and the ability to plan ahead are lining up with consumer trends to place gift cards squarely at the heart of many of today’s travel experiences.
That’s why it’s important to include travel or experience options from the Runa network in your gift card catalog, so you can meet expectations and give these consumers more of the choices they’re looking for. Schedule a demo with us and bring all of your questions to see if we’re the right platform for you.