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    Single- and Multi-Merchant Gift Cards Win Big

    Survey finds 78 percent of Americans bought or received a card over the past year.

    DENVER -- It doesn't matter if gift cards can be used at only one location or anywhere, they are an extremely popular gift, according to First Data Corp.'s survey on single- and multi-merchant gift cards.

    Over the last year, eight out of 10 consumers, or 78 percent, purchased or received a gift card. Almost half of them purchased and received a gift card in that time, the survey found. Of those that purchased cards, consumers spent an average of $281 dollars and purchased an average of five cards per year. Recipients of the cards, regardless of its single- or multi-merchant type, spent an average of $39 more than the card's value.

    "What started out little more than a decade ago as a simple replacement for paper gift certificates has evolved into an industry mainstay as gift cards of all types continue their climb in popularity among consumers," said Kevin Grieve, president of First Data Prepaid Services. "The results of our study indicate that American consumers understand gift cards, set out to buy them and typically spend more than the initial value of the card when it comes time to redeem them."

    Single-merchant gift cards -- those that can only be used at one named retailer -- are purchased more than multi-merchant cards, at 4.7 cards per consumer. Multi-merchant cards -- such as a Visa gift card that can be used wherever Visa is accepted -- increased to 2.6 cards per consumer, due to additional convenience driving the market, the study stated.

    The survey found that 23 percent of consumers bought a gift card that could be used at numerous retailers. Although discount stores top the list of places to redeem such cards, gas stations and convenience stores are also a top pick for consumers, the study found.

    "The numbers show that gift cards continue to deliver strong satisfaction and value for purchasers and receivers," said Karen Larsen, chief marketing officer for First Data Commercial Services. "Throughout history, American consumers have responded to products that make their life easier by providing convenience, choice and overall value to their retail needs and wants."

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