A new study on business incentives reveals that companies who currently use gift cards as employee incentives spend 49% of their incentive budgets on gift cards, rivaling the use of cash incentives at 32%. Also, 62% of incentive gift card purchases are for retail stores, including discount, specialty and department stores, followed by restaurants, which make up 24% of all single merchant gift card purchases for business incentives. The study, commissioned by First Data, found that 40% of gift cards are purchased from the merchant’s store, while 37% are purchased directly from their headquarters or central point of sale. Performance recognition was cited by 88% of respondents, and sales incentives was cited by 64% of all respondents, as the most popular occasions for giving employee gift card incentives. While volume discounts are highly preferred, many merchants have yet to provide programs to address this desire. Less than half of gift card purchasers say they receive a discount off the face value of the incentive gift card. The median company incentive budget for respondents is $50,000, and approximately one-third expect to increase the share of their budgets allocated to gift cards.