Posted by Chuck on October 7, 2014
Manufactured Spending

Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Chuck

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BillPay at Kmart – Liquidate Debit/Gift cards

Kmart offers a BillPay service, much like Walmart does. And, like Walmart, you can pay with cash or a PIN based debit card. And gift cards work too, including Vanilla!

Walmart BillPay

Walmart BillPay has long been a great option for unloading debit/gift cards. We can pay credit card bills, including Visa and Mastercard bills, though sadly no Amex anymore. And we’re able to pay with a debit/gift card. Actually, we can even split the charge between four debit cards.

According to reports which I’ve seen, there was a memo which circled among Walmart stores about not allowing gift cards for money orders, and presumably for BillPay too. I recently got shot down trying to buy a money order in Walmart at a store which had always been reliably accommodating. The regular CSR was clueless, but a manager happened to stop by and started questioning me about how I was paying. I swiftly pulled out my Paypal Business debit card and showed it to her – I always keep a backup method on hand.

I imagine that many Walmart’s still allow gift cards for money order and BillPay, but it seems to be getting more difficult.

Another issue that cropped up recently was the fact that the Walmart system doesn’t usually process Vanilla gift cards as debit cards, so we can’t unload Vanilla at Walmart.

We can still load our Bluebird/Serve cards at Walmart with gift cards (other than Vanilla), since you can do that at a regular cashier; with few exeptions, they rarely know not to allow gift cards. It’s usually just the better-trained reps at Customer Service/ Money Center who know not to allow gift cards. If you’re really lucky, your Walmart will have a working ATM and you can load prepaids and buy money orders there.

That being said, it’s worthwhile to expand our horizons and see what else the world has to offer.

Kmart BillPay

Kmart offers a BillPay service too. Like in Walmart, you can pay with a PIN based debit card – it’s explicitly advertised on the Kmart website. They also clearly state that you can pay credit card bills. The cost for the BillPay is “$1.50 or less”.

The provider of Kmart BillPay service is CheckFreePay, which is the exact same provider that Walmart uses. This is important because there’s lots of info out there on Walmart BillPay, and I’d assume it will all apply to Kmart’s BillPay as well. So we know that you can’t pay Amex, and we know how to pay FIA, and we know that it’s usually easiest to just pay the generic “Visa” or “Mastercard”, without mentioning the specific bank name.

Gift Cards

I had a $500 OneVanilla gift card which I was trying to get rid of, and I wanted to see if it would process properly in Kmart as a debit card. I stopped into my local Kmart, walked up to the Customer Service desk, and asked to make a payment to my Barclay Arrival card. The Kmart rep said that she’ll try typing in “Arrival” and see if it comes up. I explained to her that I had done this before and it comes up under “Mastercard”, not under “Arrival”. She was happy to try it out for me, and was able to find Mastercard in the system. She then proceeded to enter the 16-digit account number and some other info, like my name and address etc.

She asked me how much the bill is. I scrunched my forehead a little – trying to recall the exact amount – and told her that the bill is $498.50. She advised me that there’ll be a $1.50 fee, and I told her that I’m okay with that. I told her I’ll pay with a debit card, and proceeded to swipe my $500 One Vanilla card  to pay the $500 charge ($498.50+$1.50). Entered the PIN, took the receipt, and I was off.

I imagine that any gift card would work (at least Visa), but I’ve only tried One Vanilla so far. I like OneVanilla because it looks the most like a regular debit card (it doesn’t say “gift” on it at all), so it may pass even if the cashier decides to swipe the card herself. In my two experiences in Kmart, I swiped the card myself.

I also enjoyed not having to wait on line; in Walmart I invariably wait a long while at customer service for BillPay or money orders. Even the regular checkout aisles seem to consistently have long waits.

Money Orders?

Many Kmart stores also sell money orders. I had assumed that they would accept debit cards for that too. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I first saw on a blog somewhere (don’t remember where) that Kmart money orders are cash only, but I had a hard time testing it out since my local Kmart doesn’t sell money orders, though they do BillPay. I asked the manager why they don’t do money orders, and he apologized, saying that it was never set up for some reason.

I was thinking of asking him, “Well, if you would sell money orders, would you accept debit cards as payment?”, but I decided it was smarter not to ask.

In the end, I called up a random Kmart which did have both BillPay and money order services, and the rep told me that BillPay is cash or debit but money orders are cash only.

Bottom line: No money orders with debit.

[UPDATE: One reader from CA says that he has no problem using debit/gift cards for money orders, so this seems to vary by location.]

Negatives

Walmart stores are far more ubiquitous than Kmart and Walmart is likely to stay in business for longer than Kmart. But aside from that, the main disadvantage of Kmart vs Walmart is the fact that in Walmart you can split the payment between four debit/gift cards. Reportedly, in Kmart you can not split the charge – you can only use one debit/gift card for the payment.

Why’s the splitting important?

Well, firstly, let’s look at the cost – in Walmart you pay one fee of $1-$1.88 and you use up four debit/gift cards, versus Kmart which will cost $1.50 for each debit/gift card.

But to me this isn’t such a huge factor:

  1. I rarely do a four-way split because it raises too many eyebrows. I’ll try a two-way split or an occasional three, depending on how irritated the cashier looked.  (Usually, I’ll start off  with a money order and split it between two cards, and if the cashier seems chilled with the splitting, I’ll do a three-way split on a BillPay.)
  2. Additionally, if you have no specific category-bonus telling you where you need to buy the gift card, you’ll save yourself a dollar going the Kmart route by buying a Vanilla gift card at a drugstore, as opposed to buying a GiftCardMall gift card at a supermarket. So that dollar savings could offset the higher BillPay cost.

But the bigger factor to me is that in Walmart you can off-load more in one trip. Why? Because there’s only so much you can bother a single cashier. In Walmart you can easily go to Customer Service to buy one money order and do one BillPay, and thus liquidate 4-5 gift cards; two on the money order and another 2-3 on the BillPay. And then you could hop over to a couple of regular cashiers – or maybe the ATM – and liquidate a bunch more gift cards by loading Bluebird/Serve. And then maybe do some shopping. And by the time you’re done that, you may see a new rep behind the counter at the Customer Service, and you could go over and do another BillPay.

The bottom line is that Walmart could be worth the trip; if you have a lot of “business” to take care of, it could even be worth driving a half hour for. (I’d recommend going in the afternoon when it’s very busy and there are lots of cashiers around.) But in Kmart, you probably won’t end up doing more than two bill payments – it’s hard to try bothering a cashier for more than that. So it’s not something that’s worth going very out-of-the-way for.

That being said, I often stop into Walmart – when passing by – in order to liquidate one or two debit/gift cards. For this Kmart could be very useful if you have a Kmart nearby. In my case, Kmart is down the block from the Walmart, so I can stop there if I don’t like how the Walmart cashier is looking at me.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does Kmart BillPay cost?

” $1.50 or less“. My experience with paying Mastercard was $1.50 fee. Probably all credit card payments will be $1.50.

Which debit/gift cards will work? 

I believe all PIN-based debit/gift cards should work. The two success stories that I’ve had were with One Vanilla and with Paypal Business Debit Card. The Free-quent Flyer also reported that OneVanilla works for Kmart BillPay.

Sears merged with Kmart in 2005. Can I do BillPay at Sears too?

No. I called one Sears store and spoke to the manager there and he said that they don’t offer a bill payment service in Sears.

How long does it take for the payment delivery?

All Kmart BillPayments are next-day delivery. Contrast that with Walmart where you need to pay a slightly higher fee for next-day delivery.

Which credit card bills can be paid?

It should be the same as in Walmart since it uses the same provider – CheckFreePay. So most Visa and Mastercard bills should work, but not Amex. See this Flyertalk thread for all relevant details.  My experiences have been paying my “Mastercard” bill (Barclay Arrival).

How much can be paid in one bill payment?

Again, Kmart is presumably the same as Walmart which has a limit of many thousands of dollars. I’d guess the Walmart/Kmart limit is $9,999.99, but I really don’t know. If you’re using a gift card as payment in Kmart then you’ll be limited to the amount of the gift card.

Can I buy money orders too?

No. They don’t accept debit on money orders. [UPDATE: This seems to vary by location.]

Can I split the bill payment between two debit cards?

No. However, for what it’s worth, you can split the payment between cash and debit (source). “The cash part needs to be paid first.” I think that means: the cash part needs to be entered first by the cashier to bring down the balance, and then the entire balance is paid with the debit card.

[UPDATE: One person had success doing split-tender at Kmart, but it doesn’t sound like anyone else has had success.]

Can I buy the Visa gift card in Kmart too, or do I need to come with a gift card from a different store?

They don’t sell $500 gift cards (at least not at my local Kmart). I only saw $100 Visa and $200 Mastercard gift cards, nothing higher.

Our Verdict

This sounds like something useful to keep in my back pocket. I usually manage fine with my Serve and GoBank cards, but there are definitely times when I’m maxed out there and could make use of a Walmart alternative. And times when I’m trying to unload Vanilla which doesn’t work well in Walmart.

This could be useful for Vanilla gift cards, and it could also come handy for other debit cards such as  Paypal Business debit card or the SunTrust debit card or other prepaid cards. Since these cards can do high dollar amounts, it could be worth a stop to make a couple thousand dollar bill payment and save the hassle of dealing with the lines in Walmart.

Will you be stopping in Kmart soon?

 

Related: New Option for Liquidating Debit-cards/Gift-cards



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Elaine
Elaine

Very helpful summary. I tend to avoid billpay because I hate paying fees but if/when MOs and BB are not enough, I will come back here for a refresher. Thanks!

David
David

It works as expected, but it’s a little painful as they have to enter the account number twice, your name, address, and phone number. (Big sigh from them for 2 payments.) Plus, the level of comfort greatly varies for each cashier…it always seems like it’s their first time. And it’s best to bring a copy of the bill.

Adam
Adam

Doing web searches on “checkfreepay” and a zip code seem to indicate that checkfreepay is available at many check cashing businesses. I wonder if this means I can pay the same bills with the same debit cards at these places too.

danny
danny

Have you tried bringing multiple GC’s and doing separate transactions to pay the same bill?

massappeal
massappeal

got shut down at my WalMart, trying to load BB. this is the second time in the last 3 months. she said i could no longer use prepaid gift cards to load BB…will try again another day at a cashier instead of at MoneyCenter.

Andy Shuman

Thanks, didn’t know about this option. Sounds useful for those of us in NYC.

Rich
Rich

I live in CA I use debit gift cards all the time to buy money orders at my Kmart. Much easier then Walmart an there is rarely a line, but its a little further so I only go there when I’m in the area. I haven’t tried their bill pay yet. Next time I’m in the area Ill try it.

Tatyana
Tatyana

At my Kmart Customer service cashier only knows how to use WesternUnion for bill payment. What exactly cashier has to do for “checkfreepay”? Is it in regular cash register?

zimnzam
zimnzam

I’ve used Kmart billpay multiple times in the past 2 months, however am also treading carefully now as I read about Chase shutting down accounts for excessive billpay (on FT). Multiple $498.50 bill pay/s would definitely catch the eye.
For now am being over cautious as I wouldn’t want to mess with a bank like Chase, but it’s a lucrative way to increase the volume of MS especially with Old BC. Any further thoughts on doing it more “safely”?

R.
R.

I was able to pay $2,400 in Kmart but not $2,499, so the limit is somewhere in between.
That makes $1.88 at WM cheaper for bills over $3,000.

RMF325
RMF325

Thanks for the K-Mart info; I’ll definitely file this away for future use. I despise both Wal and K Marts, but have been using a Bluebird for the last year and a half, so am well versed in the Walmart procedures. There is a very sweet, elderly clerk at the Money Center at my closest Walmart, who never got the message that gift cards are not to be used for money orders; she is always happy to sell them to me with that form of payment. I’m hoping she has no plans to retire soon.

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[…] if CheckFreePay at other locations outside Walmart is still showing credit card payees. Remember, KMart also has a BillPay service, and they also use […]

Jay
Jay

I am 40 miles north of San Francisco, the only KMart in my neighborhood provides Bill Pay service for Sear’s Credit Card only 🙁
No Money Order either.

VijayB
VijayB

Can I pay credit call bill with Kmart / Sears Gift Card ?

Juan
Juan

Are these methods still working at both WM and KM?

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