For the fifth year in a row, gift cards are expected to lead holiday purchases this season, according to a survey released this week by Deloitte.

Of 13,276 consumers surveyed in late September and early October, 66 percent said they planned to buy gift cards over the holidays, the New York-based research firm reported.

With the economy in a tailspin, most shoppers are expecting to spend less per card than last year, cutting back to $28.43 from $36.18, the survey found. They will also buy fewer cards, averaging 5.3 cards compared to 5.5 last year.

The survey also found that fewer shoppers are also planning to buy gift cards for specific stores and products, though gas cards are becoming increasingly popular as consumers focus on value and necessities.

Nearly half of those surveyed admitted to having at least one unused gift card, with an average of 5.9 unused cards per respondent. As many as 14 percent said they have too many cards and will probably never redeem them all, while 24 percent said they've had a card expire before they could use it.

“With the growing number of unused gift cards, and given the current economic environment, we could see a higher gift card redemption rate in January as gift card recipients make sure they use their cards while they can.” Stacy Janiak, Deloitte’s US retail leader, said this week in a statement.

Janiak said retailers could capitalize on the trend by implementing more creative and aggressive gift card redemption programs this season.