Gift cards often go unused and, as a result, generate in millions in pure profit for retailers. Still, they are popular with last-minute shoppers and those with no idea of what to give someone.
Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service, announced that U.S. Internet searches for "gift cards" spiked in the week ending Dec. 16. The searches shot up by 109% compared with the previous week, according to the company.
Among gift card searches, American Express was up 184%, iTunes was up 69%, and Visa was up 19%.
"For the second year now, we've seen a pattern of increased searches of gift cards as Christmas Day approaches," said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, in a prepared statement. "This year, branded credit and charge gift cards dominated top searches as gift givers opted for the most flexibility."
Consumer Reports once referred to the cards as "gifts that stop giving," criticizing companies for expiring the cards or charging high fees. This year, Consumer Reports stated that retailers have improved the cards and that the cards were high on wish lists.
For product-related search terms, iPod led the pack, outnumbering Zune by 14-to-1 and Sansa by 90-to-1, the company said. Interest in the music players replaced the Nintendo Wii for the top spot as the game console sold out of many online stores and the company the remote straps.