By Michelle Graff
Washington--Consumers will spend more than ever before on gift cards this holiday season, citing practicality as the reason they buy them instead of picking a specific present.

According to the NRF’s recent Gift Card Spending Survey, total gift card spending is expected to reach $31.74 billion this season.

Spending per person also will increase, from $163.16 last year to $172.74 in 2014. Shoppers will spend an average of $47.87 per card, up from $45.16 last year.

The survey shows that adults over the age of 65 will spend the most at an average of $204.59, while young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 will spend the least on gift cards, with an average of $113.75.

Men also plan to spend more on them than women this year, $180.81 versus $165.09, respectively.

When asked why they planned to purchase gift cards this holiday season, 52 percent of shoppers said that it was because it allowed the recipient to choose their own gift. More than one-fourth of those surveyed also said that gift cards are easier and faster to buy, while 4 percent said that it helps them stick to their holiday budget.

In terms of what type of gift cards they will get, department stores and restaurants reigned--38 percent will get gift cards from a department store and 34 percent will get ones from a restaurant. In addition, 21 percent will give gift cards to a coffee shop, 19 percent will give to electronics stores, and 18 percent will give the gift of entertainment, such a movie theater gift card.

In October, the NRF conducted a survey that also found that 62 percent of shoppers said they’d like to receive a gift card, making them the most requested gift item for eight years in a row.

“No longer impersonal or only about convenience, gift cards have become the perfect, practical gift item for millions of holiday shoppers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “And, as the most requested gift item for eight years in a row, we’re sure there will be plenty of happy individuals this holiday season who can look forward to treating themselves to something shiny and new come January, when retailers start to offer promotions on fresh new merchandise.”

The NRF’s Gift Card Spending Survey, which was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, polled 6,593 consumers from Nov. 3 to 10.

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