Gift Cards, Reward Points Hold Less Value With Rising Inflation

Chase Golem, Student Life editor

As of right now, the inflation rate has slowly decreased to a, still substantial, 6%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The prices of food and other goods has increased significantly over the past year, but gift cards still hold the same value as they did years ago, and they are buying less.

With the rise in inflation rates, and the slow increase of general prices, the value of an unused gift card from last year has a little less value than before. With a 6% inflation rate, a $100 gift card now has a buying power of $94, not substantial but still lost value.

“I have not really noticed any real difference in buying power at stores and restaurants,” senior Sid Kuchangi said, “but usually when me or my family buys a gift card for someone else, there is usually an availability of gift cards.”

The amount of people buying and loading gift cards had decreased around 13%, from 2019 according to sales reports from Paytronix, a management platform for online gift cards.

In 2020, sales jumped back up 22%.

“I don’t use gift cards often,” senior Shane Gibbons said, “but I do have some from past holidays, mostly old Amazon gift cards, I think the buying power is decreasing. I don’t really see as much gift card use now.”

With inflation making gift cards worth less, reward systems are also changing to combat it – making customers spend more money to get free or discounted foods. Notably, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have changed their reward systems to require more points.

“I use points because I’m broke,” senior Amanda Woolsey said, “but also because they give me back a little on my purchases while I buy from those places anyways.”

In the case of Starbucks, the company uses “stars” as a point value. For every dollar spent, you receive one star (two if using a gift card). A free bakery item would have originally been 50 stars, which increased to 100 stars on Feb. 13.  Some decreased, like a free iced coffee or tea, which went down from 150 stars to 100.

Dunkin’ Donuts revamped theirs, where now customers get 10 points per dollar spent, but the rewards are more demanding. In order to get a free drink, customers have to spend between $50 and $90, or have 500 to 900 points. Previously, drinks ranged within 200 points.

“It kind of sucked anyway though,” Woolsey said. “Starbucks in specific, I don’t think they ever said why either.”

Because of the ever-decreasing value of rewards in today’s society, some restaurant locations are just stopping with them – as with the Subway in Hamel, where Woolsey works.

“I’ve definitely seen [rewards losing value] in a lot of places, especially at my work, where prices for food have gone up a couple dollars on an already expensive item,” Woolsey said. “We actually don’t even take rewards at my location because of the value loss.”