Starbucks Sees Consumers Hit $3 Billion in Holiday Gift Cards

The free coffee gift can go a long way, and it certainly adds up.

According to Starbucks estimates released Tuesday, Dec. 23 will be the busiest day for gift card purchases, as holiday shoppers scramble to find the latest items on their lists for friends, family and co-workers.

The Seattle-based coffee giant said nearly $3 billion would be loaded onto Starbucks cards from October through December. In 2020, more than 46 million Starbucks cards, physical and digital, were purchased in the United States and Canada during the holiday season.

Starbucks introduced reloadable gift cards in November 2001, which quickly became a holiday staple, selling nearly 200,000 in the first week alone.

The company first sold non-reloadable cards in 1994, as an alternative to paper gift certificates. According to Starbucks, the cards “helped put Starbucks on the map” when there were only 4,700 locations at the turn of the new millennium.

Today, there are over 33,000 Starbucks locations.

“For more than 20 years, Starbucks Cards have been the perfect gift for loved ones this holiday season, and we’re on track for another record performance in Starbucks Card sales,” said Brady Brewer, CEO of Starbucks.

In general, gift cards are a must-have for holiday shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation. About 46% of shoppers plan to buy one this holiday season, second only to plans to buy clothes, according to NRF data.

20 years of greeting cards at Starbucks. (Courtesy of Starbucks)

In addition to a holiday menu, Starbucks unveiled seasonal designs for its gift cards. Over the past 20 years, more than 1,500 designs have debuted on Starbucks gift cards, which are available in physical and digital formats that can be loaded from $5 to $100.

These include limited-edition designs like the Taylor Swift-inspired Starbucks electronic gift that debuted in November, which included the lyrics “Autumn Leaves Falling Down” from her hit song “All Too Well.”

When customers register the gift card with the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program and make a purchase, they can earn stars to redeem for a free drink, food, and other items. The loyalty program segment is a booming revenue stream for the coffee giant, which has been boosted during COVID-19 as consumers shifted to contactless interaction.

In the fourth quarter, Starbucks rewards 90-day active members of the loyalty program jumped to 24.8 million in the fourth quarter, up 28% from a year ago.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email him at [email protected]

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Michael N. Clark