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You Can’t Unwrap Cash – Europeans Reveal The Gifts Guaranteed To Offend This Festive Season

Study reveals that giving cash as a gift is thoughtless and uncaring – and that when it comes to gifting, it really is the thought that counts for most Europeans


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It’s official: if you want to show you care and avoid arguments during the festive season, then put a little thought into the gifts you buy. That’s the result of a study into seasonal spending habits showing that nearly a third of Europeans believe cash is both a thoughtless and offensive gift. So much so, one in ten of us even say it is a potential trigger for a quarrel with a loved one.

The European-wide study by MasterCard polled over 15,000 people across 17 countries to find out what we love and loathe about gift-giving and receiving – and whether our thoughtfulness suffers when we’re crunched for time. In uplifting news, we are a continent of considerate people who eschew consumerism: understanding what the receiver really wants (87%) and being thoughtful (86%) are the top reasons we appreciate a present. In fact, cash is such a no-no, only one in ten of us actually admit we would ever give cash as a gift.

When we forget to be thoughtful, the guilt gets to us: one in four regretted a gift because we didn’t give it enough thought. The 45% of us – almost half! – who say we’ve received a thoughtless gift also experience the disappointment. Most people put this down to their loved one being clueless about what to get them (45%). It seems thought is the most important investment we make in a gift, with almost all of us (97%) saying the cost of the gift from a loved one doesn’t matter one bit.

Commenting on these findings, Javier Perez, President of MasterCard Europe said: “With the holiday season fast approaching, it is uplifting to know that thoughtfulness is what matters. Across Europe the focus is not on how much money has been exchanged, but the thought that has gone into giving a gift. While resorting to cash as a gift might be a simple option, these findings highlight that when it comes to gifting, our loved ones expect more thought and care to be taken.” What is more, as technology continues to make people’s lives simpler than ever – whether it’s paying for a gift or enabling us to find that perfect present – it’s no wonder we are moving away from giving cash as a gift. Perez adds: “Today it is easy to access and pay for everything electronically and Europeans are responding positively with nearly three out of five (66%) using card in-store.”

The study also shed light on how far ahead we start shopping for festive gifts. Although a third of us (32%) start a month in advance, nearly half (45%) admitted to starting the search for gifts with only a week or less to go! Men (34%) are more likely than women (27%) to leave it to the last minute, starting the week before at the earliest. Interestingly, of those who said they have received a thoughtless gift (45%), almost one in three (28%) believe it’s because their loved one left gift-buying until the last minute.

In addition to cash, other gifts deemed as thoughtless by Europeans included a pet goldfish (52%), household appliances (35%), bed linen (26%) and bath products (26%).

The study also reveals the interesting ways in which our approach to thoughtful gifting varies across Europe;

o   Giving cash is considered most thoughtless in Spain (52%) and Italy (45%), which is all the more surprising as they are also the two highest users of cash in Europe

o   Sweden (45%) and Poland (36%) are the most regretful nations, feeling ashamed about a gift they’ve previously bought for not being thoughtful enough

o   Netherlands (21%) and Hungary (17%) are the least likely to say they have received a thoughtless gift

o   Whereas the least regretful nations in Europe are France (12%) and Belgium (9%)

o   Greek gift-givers (60%) are the most last minute, waiting until only the last week to start their festive shopping

o   Cash being given as a gift is more likely to trigger an argument for over one in four people in Turkey (27%), more than in any other European nation

o   Belgian and Polish men are the biggest procrastinators, with 43% purchasing gifts at the last minute

o   However, the UK best at planning ahead, with 38% of Brits shopping for gifts a few months in advance or earlier

o   Czechs are the most thoughtful in Europe: 91% feel that thoughtfulness is a deciding factor when deciding what to buy

o   More than anywhere in Europe, those in Russia believe being thoughtful is most important when shopping for family (34%) and friends (31%)

o   On the other hand, the French are romantics, and the most thoughtful in Europe when shopping for their partner (41%)

o   For Austrians, getting personal is everything: 94% believe that giving a personal gift is most important

Notes to editors:

The research was conducted by Toluna across 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Romania. 15,129 consumers were polled between October 1st and 15th, 2014.

About MasterCard
MasterCard (NYSE: MA),,is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.


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