Posted by Chuck on February 23, 2015
Manufactured Spending

Published on February 23rd, 2015 | by Chuck

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Is the Axe Falling on Unloading Gift Cards at Walmart?

This is another post in our Manufactured Monday series. We try to offer some insights into manufactured spend each Monday. You can view all posts in this series by clicking here.

There’s been talk recently about the Armageddon scenario of Walmart stopping to allow PIN-enabled Visa gift cards to be used for loading Bluebird/Serve and purchasing money orders. I won’t add any hard data in this post, but given the importance of issue, I’ll add a few points to the discussion based on my local Walmart employees.

The Rumor

MilesToMemories recently posted an ominous suggestion that Walmart may stop allowing gift cards to be used in place of PIN-based debit cards for things like loading prepaid cards and buying money orders. Not only that, but it’s actually going to be hardcoded in the register not to allow these cards, so even a nice (or clueless) cashier won’t be of  any help.

It is certainly feasible for Walmart to code such a thing, since the first digits on a credit/debit card say a lot about the nature of the card, such as which bank issued the card, if it’s credit or debit, and – often – if it’s a prepaid debit card or an ordinary debit card. (See this post from MillionMileSecrets for more details on this.) If Walmart would code such a thing, it would open up a whole new front of trying to find gift cards that aren’t coded as gift cards, and trying to see which prepaid cards (like Buxx, Paypal, etc.) are able to be used at Walmart and which aren’t. I’m putting my money on FreequentFlyerBook for figuring it all out for us.

MilesToMemories found this in a tweet from Ben Turnbull who mentioned a memo stating such a thing. From what I gather, he didn’t actually see the memo, rather he heard about it from a Walmart cashier. The cashier referenced specifically loading prepaid cards, but presumably they would code money orders and the like to not be allowed with gift cards as well.

An interesting question brought up by MilesToMemories is whether the Walmart Money Center ATM will also be coded to reject prepaids, since apparently Walmart is slower at updating their Money Center ATMs than they are at their registers. A glimmer of hope. Wouldn’t help for me since I’ve literally never gotten the ATM to work for me.

My Trusty Cashier

I actually first heard about this new limitation long before this tweet, but in much vaguer terms. Two Money Center reps in my local Walmart, mentioned to me about a month ago that as of April 1, only permanent debit cards will be allowed.

Note that both the rumor I’m starting and the rumor that Ben started specifically mention that this new saga will start on the first of the month. Sounds like we’re on a similar page. My cashiers clearly mentioned April 1, while his cashier mentioned next month, which sounds like March 1. Let’s take the liberty of suggesting that “next month” mentioned by his cashier actually refers to April 1. This would give us an extra month to bring Walmart to court for infringing on our unalienable right for the pursuit of happiness.

When I first heard about the future limitation, I had no way of knowing if this was a decision of my local Walmart store or if it was a corporate decision. I asked my favorite cashier and she didn’t know if it was corporate or local. Even if it was a corporate decision, I didn’t know whether it would be hardcoded in the register or it would be up to the cashiers to enforce.

About a week later, I was purchasing money orders with my favorite cashier again and I broached the topic of  the new limitation coming on April 1. She told me, “Oh, I heard that originally, but now I hear that it’s not happening, so I’m not saying anything anymore”.

This was the last I heard, about a month ago. Just tonight, I got my favorite cashier again on a money order run, and I asked her if there’s any update on the April 1 limitation. She said, “Oh, I haven’t heard about it again. Must have just been a fib.”

My Thoughts

Note that while this cashier is a senior money center cashier, she’s not a manager or an assistant manager, so it’s possible that she simply doesn’t know. But being that she had heard about it originally and then heard that it was retracted, I’m optimistic that it had been considered by Walmart corporate and then been the idea was scrapped.

It is possible that this whole thing was just a back-and-forth that was going on in the management of my local Walmart, but I’m more inclined to put the two stories together and believe that there was a debate at the corporate level about it and they hopefully ended up scrapping the idea.

Of course, even if I’m right, that doesn’t put us in the clear for good, it just puts us in the clear for now. It’s quite possible that they just took away the April 1 date and decided to put some more thought or research into the issue before deciding.

Remember, as much as loading prepaids takes up employee time, it also brings customers into the store. FrequentMiler went as far as saying that Target may decide to consciously allow credit card loads on REDbird so as to draw customers into the store. While I agree that it’s plausible that this is the reason Target hasn’t stopped it yet, I’m skeptical that they won’t stop it eventually. In my view, that and other factors put the issue on the back-burner for them and they’re letting it slide for now, allowing the card to gain publicity.

But in the case of Walmart, the issue is the more minor cost of processing debit cards. While temporary debit cards may cost more than permanent debit cards [since it may not have the 21¢ swipe-fee limit enacted under the Durbin Amendment in 2010], the fees are still quite low. In fact, I’d guess they’re more worried about employee time (and maybe money laundering) than they are about the swipe fees.

Bottom Line

I obviously don’t know anything for sure, but Ben sought out others to ask their local Walmart cashiers about this, so this is my two cents. At the very least, I’m hopeful that we have until April 1, but moreover I’m optimistic that there hasn’t yet been any such decision to stop allowing gift cards and that we’re in the clear for the near future.

If anyone has any reports that they heard from any Walmart employees, please let us know in the comments, so that we can crowdsource this issue into clarity.

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WMT CSM
WMT CSM

April fools prank from your favorite CSM on April 1st.

Carl C
Carl C

That would be huge. I share your optimism that this won’t happen. If it did, there are still some other locations for buying MOs, but many of them won’t allow split payments so that would increase base cost some too.

Brian
Brian

There seems to be lots of information going around recently. When I started running into tighter checks for MO purchases, the reasoning was described as “at the request of Moneygram” they can’t accept VGC for MO.

Will
Will

not sure if this has been happening to others but lately when I try to load my BB with a visa gift card and PayPal debit, it would say “debit not authorized.” When I check my card activity it shows that a debit was done but then immediately credited back. This has happened increasingly in the last 2 months and I’m not sure what this means and whether others have similar experiences

ChorneaKoshka
ChorneaKoshka

Just my data point, I’ve never had an issue loading VGC’s to Serve at my Walmart, with any cashier.
Two weeks ago, one cashier told me to go to the CS desk.
A week later I was specifically asked to see the card I would be loading. (Was never asked before).
Something’s ablowing in the wind (My walmart is fairly clueless in general)

Jack
Jack

Many Walmarts like the ones in my area banned giftcards and started making you show them the cards at the end of last summer. So giftcards to buy MO have been dead at my WM for a while. It’s been a geographical thing.

As far as the things that the cashiers say, my cashiers have told me all kinds of crazy rumors over the last year. I don’t think they ever really know anything until it happens. It’s like when the giftcards died for Money Center usage in my area, it happened at all my Walmarts and Neighborhood Markets on the same day and the clerks were talking about the training they had received and that they were supposed to watch for anything that said “giftcard” on it.

It will happen eventually, maybe on April 1st, maybe not.

Some Guy
Some Guy

I unloaded 3k in GC today, 4 500 loads at regular checkouts and a 1k at CS desk. At the regular checkout lines they only allowed 500 dollar loads. The CS desk allowed 1k like always. I dont have any Kates in my area and a few of my walmarts have stopped allowing GC reloads since early last year (they are anal about it). An interesting thing happened during my last load. The guy asked for my id and then just as I was about to swipe he asked to see the debit card. As I already had it in my hand there was no way to switch it for a real one. He looked at it and said “hold on I have to ask my manager about this” and brings my id and serve card to the manager. As I waited, I could feel the sky falling on my head (just kidding). He came back and said it was OK as long as I was loading it as a debit. Go figure. I thought he was definitely going to say it was NOT ok. I dont think this hardcoding rumour is true, but I am sure it will end one day.

Barb
Barb

Whether this rumor becomes reality on April Fools day or not, I’ll continue to go about my business and find other avenues to liquidate prepaid GCs. It might happen but just like the OVs limited to <$50/load, I have a feeling there is going to be a work around(if and ever…). Meanwhile, I'll keep making hay while the sun shines.

choi
choi

Hi Barb
Can you still load VGC from CVS ? if so, at what quantity ?

Thanks

Barb
Barb

Choi,

I rarely buy OVs unless there are free GC offers when you buy them which happens very often at Walgreens. Since it got more difficult to load them at WM, I just buy MOs at the grocery store that charges .69 per 1K and liquidate them in 2 swipes. What I buy from CVS are the fee free Serve temporary cards and PPMCs which my store allows 2 per day. I still have up to September to earn 5% reward $ on my blue cash after the memo I received in my January statement.

Charles
Charles

Tried to load Serve with a $500 VGC. Everything went well until I looked at the receipt – “DEBIT NOT APPROVED VENDOR DOWN”
Not sure what this means and if the $500 has vanished from the VGC. Any input is greatly appreciated.

choi
choi

the end is near, what should we do ?

Charlene
Charlene

I tried making a purchase at my local Walmart (PA) this week using a Target prepaid GC using it as debit with my pin and it would not go thru, it kept trying to go thru as credit, since I was at the self checkout I asked the cashier why it wasn’t accepting my debit card and she said it’s “their new system that automatically processes debit cards as credit” she then stated she could do it for me at her register so I went over and same thing, it kept trying to run it as credit. I ended up just using my bank card debit card which gave me the option to cancel and use a pin. So apparently our WM now has this policy in place, which must be fairly new because I never had a problem using the same kind of GC as debit in the past.

Audrey
Audrey

Today at Walmart I tried to load a VGC to Serve at both a regular register and CS, didn’t work either place. Let me enter pin but then didn’t go through. This Walmart is very lax compare to others I’ve been to, the cashier apologized in fact. IOW she didn’t seem to be looking for a gc but the system did not allow it. Both times I ended up using my PPDMC. The CS employee did mumble something about “if you use Green Dot” but then suggested I try again as maybe I’d entered my pin wrong. PPDMC worked so “seems” the hardcoding has happened here? Kate was down so could not try that. I realize it’s one time but the PPDMC working coupled with the fact that I have NEVER had an issue at this Walmart doesn’t bode well…

Audrey
Audrey

It (belatedly) occurred to me to check my balance online, turns out three of seven cards I bought have some sort of issue (I only tried one today). So maybe not Walmart after all.

Audrey
Audrey

Turns out the cashier didn’t activate them properly. Sorry for the false alarm, never had this happen before, fortunately still have receipts. It did seem odd it happened so soon.

AIX
AIX

Just to add another data point… Went to the Walmart near me last night and was able to add a US bank issued gift card to my my bluebird. Kate was down (surprise surprise) but I was able to do it via a cashier no problem. Business as usual on my Walmart and no mention of any changes.

ben
ben

Hi, is anyone still able to load gift cards to BB at Walmart? I have not been there a while and intend to load this coming weekend. Thanks.

trackback

[…] 情報源はdoctor of creditです これはあくまでも噂ですが来月3月か4月からwalmartでのギフトカードを使ってのリロードができなくなる可能性が高い!という情報です。 PINがあるvisaギフトカードをリロードできたのが、近い将来できなくなるというはなし。 まだ確実にそうなるという情報ではありませんが可能性が高いでしょう。 となるとギフトカードを使ってリロードできるのはredbirdだけということになるのでしょうか? : […]

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