Gift Cards and Pre-Paids Update – May Edition

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I feel like this should almost be a monthly installment on the blog, as the world of gift cards and pre-paids seems to have some relatively significant changes at least once a month…and that is also about as often as I get a chance to do a gift card run. Anyway, today was my chance to load up on more gift cards and/or pre-paid cards, so I headed to Walmart to try to repeat my success story from a month ago. Vanilla Reloads are very scarce in my city, so instead my plan was to buy a couple $500 Visa gift cards at Walmart, and load them to my Bluebird using the Walmart Money Center machine. This worked beautifully last time since the Visa gift cards purchased after April 1st can now be used with pin numbers (though each issuing bank handles how you get the pin differently).

Last time I remarked that “this might be too doable” and “I won’t be shocked if this method doesn’t stick around forever in it’s current form”. I was able to do everything in one easy stop, and anytime anything is too easy, it seems to not last very long. So, imagine my (lack of) shock when today the Walmart register would no longer allow Visa gift cards to be paid for with a credit card. The cashier tried everything, but the machine was adamant that my “form of tender was not accepted”. Drats!

So, I went to CVS. As usual they did not have any Vanilla Reloads, but they had some Vanilla Visa gift cards. I picked up the up to $500 variety and was able to pay there with a credit card without issue. Unlike the handy version I purchased last time from Walmart (pictured below), this version requires you to choose your pin by having a debit transaction and choosing your pin on that first transaction. I did that and then was able to load it to the Bluebird via the Walmart Money Center machine…though I am now wondering if my first transaction where I selected my pin could have been at the ATM/Walmart Money Center machine.  Update: A few folks in the comments have indeed done this, so no need for an extra step.  Buy the card and go straight to the Money Center machine and enter any four digit pin you want.

Great for pins - it is the last four of the card number


Trickier getting a pin number - have to have debit transaction

Next time I will buy the gift card before heading to Walmart since I now know that at least my local Walmart is no longer friendly toward credit cards.  I’ll probably visit a local grocery store for a gift card and pay with a card that earns a bonus on “groceries”.

Have you experienced the same thing at your Walmart? Do you have to keep adjusting your gift card and prepaid card method to keep up with the constant changes with what works and what doesn’t?

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  1. Best option I can see at the moment is the gift cards from Chase with no fees and free shipping. I ordered two and received them yesterday. Loaded to BB with no issue. So points for rent this month! Next month – who knows?

  2. “…though I am now wondering if my first transaction where I selected my pin could have been at the ATM/Walmart Money Center machine.”

    The answer to your question is yes.

  3. Chris, that is a good option for sure.
    Travel Summary and Mason, cool. I didn’t try that this time for fear of another delay, so I just bought something with it I needed anyway. Good to know for next time and I’ll update the post with that!

  4. did you try with mastercard on the WM machines? It seems that those never work.

    The only WM in my area has a broken machine since last one week – it seems people are using it very regularly 🙂

  5. Thanks for the info – it is good to know the “bow” Visa’s work since that is what I mostly see. Luckily I seem to be the only one buying VRs from my CVS. I do not look forward to multiple trips to Walmart – yuck!

  6. MP, am I getting this right (looking at the first picture), that you tried to buy Visa GC at WM at WM kiosk?

    I’m a frequent WM’s visitor starting last April, and I noticed the same thing with purchasing Visa/MC gift cards at Walmart. In April and early of May, I was able to purchase WM Visa GC using a credit card and cashiers never questioned the purchase. But, starting last week, I am out of luck. Now, when cashiers see a gift card, they immediately ask me how I’m paying. If they hear other than cash/debit – they refuse to continue. I even tried to fool cashier by saying that I am using a debit card, but I swiped a credit card. But the payment method is displayed on cashier’s monitor, so it was no-go.

    Variable MC gift card at WM is hard coded for cash/debit.

    Anyway, our local WM is out of Visa GCs, so not a big loss for me.

  7. @ Mommy Points

    “Vanilla Reloads are very scarce in my city…” I thought your city was Houston, TX?

    I went there this February and it was like a party in terms of finding Vanilla Reloads! It’s as if the CVS over there have Vanilla trees in their backyards…

    I’m in NYC and it’s terribly difficult to find them here. And when you do find them there is always the risk the cashier “doesn’t feel comfortable” with accepting credit cards for the reloads…

  8. Domino, I have only used Visa. My Walmart’s machine was broken when I went last month, but fortunately it was up and running this month. Luckily you can them process the transaction in the Money Center (or whatever they call it).
    Tana, hopefully your method will keep working well for you! I miss the days of VR at Office Depot!
    Sergey, I did not try to buy the gift card at the kiosk, but via the normal cashier. I loaded it to the Bluebird via the kiosk. Your experience with buying the gift cards is exactly my experience at Walmart. Worked in April. Machine refused it now in late May. My Walmart was also running very, very low on the gift cards as well…not that it matters to me now.
    PointsSurfer, I live about 30-40 minutes from Houston. I’m sure I could find them in Houston, but I am virtually never in Houston. Out in my suburbs they are quite scarce. No VR Trees to be found. 😉

  9. One catch to watch out for is that some gift cards take up to an hour to become fully activated (but they’re usually much faster than that). So, buy the gift cards, run an errand, then use them to load Bluebird. And, I agree with you that this is all too easy. I’ll be surprised if it lasts very long.

    • FM, thankfully I haven’t ended up with one that took an hour – though I did back when I was able to get VR. Walmart not taking credit cards for gift cards is a bad omen.

  10. Anyone in Phx, AZ knows a Walmart with a Express Machine? I already checked 4 Walmarts and they didn’t have it.

  11. @ Mommy Points

    Sorry to hear… They should really make these more widely available…

    @Frequent Miler & Mommy Points

    I hear you on it being to easy, I definitely try to take advantage of these opportunities as much as possible (I keep remembering the penny sale by the Treasury a few years back). However the word out is that miles and points collectors like us don’t even register at the corporate level for these stores. What they are really worried about is laundering.

    To be honest I know close to nothing about money laundering, but I’d figure the easiest way would to use cash to be reloads instead of credit cards?…

  12. Only one of our local Walmart locations has the Bluebird Kiosk. It’s a location in a slightly sketchy part of town. My family calls it “The Scary Walmart”. I went yesterday thinking I’d buy the gift card there and then load it there as well. They didn’t even have the variable value Visa gift cards that I had purchased there a couple of weeks ago. They had some fixed value cards. I wasn’t sure if they had pulled them or were just out. I guess it doesn’t matter if there is a new policy to disallow credit cards for prepaid cards.

  13. Mine is just like yours, they wont allow but cash or debit cards. The cashier had a horrible attitude “Im gonna have to call the manager about this!”

  14. My local Walmart (south TX) is still accepting CC for the Visa gift cards as of yesterday I purchased 2 of them.

  15. At one Walmart in the Bay Area, the kiosk was broken and they facilitated loading my GCs purchased elsewhere to my BB – UNTIL they noticed these were GCs. Even though I pointed out many times they were actually PIN debit cards, with “Debit” written on them, when they noticed “Gift Card” they tried to reverse the transactions already completed! They were unsuccessful in this, but detained me 20 minutes and told me not to return to that store! Highly unprofessional.

  16. Went to WalMart yesterday, cashier immediately asked how I wanted to pay for the gift card. I told her credit card and she said I could only use cash or debit. She went to check with a manager, but came back with the same response. So I took the GC to the Customer Service and asked if I could pay for it there with Amex. Employee said he didn’t know but we could try and see. Sure enough it worked. Maybe they are just telling their cashiers not to accept credit card payments but the registers will still accept it if attempted?

    • I think it depends on the Walmart. At mine the cashier tried it without blinking an eye but the machine would not accept credit cards any longer.

  17. It seems a little counterproductive do spend so much time and energy driving around from place to place. What are you trying to accomplish with the gift cards? Meeting minimum spending requirements or getting points on the purchases?

    • Cogswell, two things. First, I have a couple cards I am trying to hit an annual spending threshold on to trigger a bonus (like the BA 2 for 1 cert). I need to generate a little additional spend on those cards to get there. Second, I want to try and stay on top of how some of this works since I do get questions on it from time to time. It does take too much time for me to do it regularly, though if you get a good system in place it does help speed things along.

  18. Ok I think I just got burned. I bought a $500 visa gift card at Kroger. I took it to Walmart to load onto Bluebird and was declined. First I tried the last 4 numbers of the card as a PIN and then I called and changed the PIN to another number. Still declined. So I called the number on the VISA card and the lady said I can’t transfer the funds. She also mentioned it is a non-reloadable card. The “birthday cake” Visa cards I buy at Walmart also say non-reloadable. What’s the deal? I knew I would get “caught” sooner or later.

  19. Also mommy points…you do all this churning and still manage to spend 30k onthe BA card to get the companion cert? I’m impressed!

  20. Ok but when you factor in the cost of 60 cents per mile for running a car, the time spent and the 1% fee on the gift cards, you might as well just pay someone through PayPal for 2.9% or Square for 2.75%

  21. FYI… I was passing by Walmart today so I went back in to try to load that VISA bow gift card onto my Bluebird. (Because I read a comment that said it takes an hour to activiate?) Wishful thinking. Still no go. So now I am stuck with a $500 gift card. Certainly I can spend it in stores, but it is going to get in the way of meeting my spend requirement on my new SPG Amex. Oh well. The gift card is good for a year before they start charging a $2 fee.

    My husband is convinced it doesn’t work because I bought it at Kroger and Kroger and Walmart are not compatible. Silliness probably, but now I am afraid to try again. Even though I have bought the $500 “birthday cake” gift cards at Walmart 4 times and loaded them with no problem….I am scared now. Once bitten and twice shy I guess.

    Too bad…I was really looking forward to being able to pay my mortgage with this every month.

  22. @LMR I purchased the same GC at Kroger (grey with purple bow?). I went to WalMart and loaded them at guest services and I was successful BUT at first they didn’t want to because it was a GC. Once I told them I had a pin code they let me load it. Don’t know if it matters but I’m in Texas.

  23. Yes the grey with the purple bow! I only tried at the machine. I guess I will go back and try guest services. I hate the thought of that. Especially if they hassle me. But I really don’t want to be stuck with that gift card.

  24. Thought I would update this in case anyone else has the same issue.

    I still have the grey with purple bow $500 “debit” gift card that I bought at Kroger. Today I waited in line at the Walmart Money Center to try to have the cashier load it – as houstonmama suggested above.

    No go. I entered my PIN and it said “payment type not accepted”. The cashier said even though those cards say “debit” they are not, in fact, debit cards. They can be used as credit cards only. So now I am stuck with a $500 gift card. I know I can use it, but it just makes me mad. I have cards I need to meet spending requirements on. But I should be done with that by July and then I can start using this credit/gift card until it’s gone.

    Lesson learned. Not sure I will be doing this anymore. I’m afraid. 🙁

  25. Love your blog! I used your BritAir card link to get the 50K miles. I’ll use them to take two rt flights on Alaska to Hawaii (yes I live on the west coast).
    I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just take the Chase giftcard or Vanilla reload card to my credit union to make a cash advance and deposit in into my credit union. I can then pay my bills via a credit union check. Any reason why I shouldn’t do it this way? Thanks!

    • Kiki, thanks for your support – great card and a great plan to use them. I would recommend doing some test things with the gift cards and seeing what is possible in your area. Personally I just load them to my Bluebird and then you have a wide range of options to spend the money and/or get it back out.

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