The study, involving 2,000 UK adults, supported by KPMG and sponsored by Tillo, states that 54.1% of UK adults received at least one gift card in the last 12 months.

However, 29.26% of them received gift cards solely for non-gifting purposes because of previous lockdowns combined with the cost-of-living crisis.

The largest share comes from businesses seeking to reward customers and offer cashback and incentives (10.29%). Around 8.1% of employees have also received mini-bonuses from their employers as a form of cost-of-living support.

Around 5.66% of UK adults have also received gift cards from insurance companies for emergency interim payments.

Director general at the GCVA Gail Cohen said: “Over the decade gift cards have evolved to allow online shopping; digital gift cards can now be added to mobile wallets. All of these factors have seen an explosion in applications, which now means gift cards are a crucial part of society.”

Another example of gift cards for non-gifting purposes involve government handouts, such as free school meals operated during pandemic school closures.

“We’ve also seen an explosion in innovative applications, especially post-lockdown. For example, cards being used to promote local towns and high-streets (with cards restricted to geographic locations) or as a way for companies to help employees access wellbeing services without feeling like their employer is looking over their shoulder”, explained Cohen.

In January 2023, fintech outfit iVertical Payment Networks chose Sionic to enable customers to load digital cash to merchant gift cards.

“Gift cards are a simple, secure and well-loved financial product. We’ve all been using them since we were about six years old, and they require little or no explanation”, Cohen from GCVA pointed out.

“Many sectors have embraced the gift card as it combines the simplicity of cash, but still allows payments to be controlled and monitored (e.g. for a specific purpose), for balances to be checked and topped up remotely and for recipients to redeem their gift card online”, he said.