By Michelle Graff
Washington--The number of consumers who will purchase gift cards to give as holiday presents is projected to reach an all-time high this year, a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey shows.

According to the NRF’s gift card spending survey, 81 percent of shoppers polled will buy a gift card this holiday season. Consumers will spend an average of $163.16 on them in 2013, a 4 percent increase from the $156.86 average spent last year and the highest in the survey’s 11-year history.

Shoppers older than 65 will spend the most on gift cards at an average of $175.96. This is followed by those ages 35 to 44 who will spend, on average, $171.15.

Gender-wise, men will spend nearly $20 more than women on gift cards.

Consumers also will spend more on each card they buy, according to the NRF. Those who are planning to buy gift cards will spend an average of $45.16 per card, another survey high, up from the average of $43.75 spent last year.

The top choices for gift cards are department stores (40 percent) and restaurants (34 percent), while nearly one in five (19 percent) indicated they would give a gift card for a coffee shop.

“Gift givers know that many of their loved ones may have been holding back on spending on themselves all year long, and would love nothing more than to receive a gift card that allows them to purchase whatever they want,” said Pam Goodfellow, Prosper Insights & Analytics’ consumer insights director.

“Shoppers hoping to add an extra touch to their gift cards will have plenty of opportunities to add audio, video or image enhancements to select retailers’ gift cards, making even the smallest gift still very personal.”

According to NRF’s first holiday survey, nearly 60 percent of shoppers polled said that they would like to receive gift cards this year, which have been the most-requested gift item for seven years in a row.

Prosper conducted the NRF’s gift card spending survey, polling 6,201 consumers from Nov. 1 to 7.

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