Friday, April 12, 2013

Visa and Mastercard gift cards now with PIN code

A few days ago, the frequent flyer community was in an uproar about this post from Million Mile SecretsCertain Mastercard and Visa gift cards now allow you to setup a PIN code to use these cards as “debit” cards.  You can usually find these types of gift cards at grocery stores and drugstores on the gift card rack.

The reason having a PIN code with these gift cards is a big deal is that now you may be able to use these cards as debit cards.  You can load your Bluebird account with a debit card, up to $1,000 per day at Walmart locations (up to $5,000 load limit per month per Bluebird account). 

There are reports that you can also use these PIN code gift cards to buy money orders at locations where money orders are sold.  There are also reports that you can simply take the gift card to your bank and request a “cash advance” and get cash back.  These can be easy options to quickly manufacture spending.  I cannot confirm these reports and YMMV with this.

Since this is a new change to how gift cards are handled, not all stores may accept gift cards to be used as debit cards with PIN code. 

This evening I was with my wife shopping for groceries at Vons.  When we walked past the gift card rack, I couldn't help but pick up a Visa Gift card and load it with $500 (with $5.95 purchase fee).  I used my American Express Blue Cash Everyday card to earn 3% back on the purchase (the Blue Cash Preferred card earns 6% back on groceries). 

I had to test this out for myself to see if it would work.  If it didn’t work, it’s not like I was losing money, since I could eventually use this $500 gift card to make normal purchases with.

The cashier didn't bat an eye when I pulled out my credit card to make the purchase.  Some cashiers may demand that you use cash or debit card to purchase gift cards, YMMV.  

There are different types of these gift cards.  Some are issued by MetaBank and some by US Bank.  The gift card that I purchased was issued by MetaBank.  It looked like this on the front:
And this on the back:
I personally did not try purchasing a card issued by US Bank cards, but I’ve heard many reports of it working without issue.  

There just so happens to be a Walmart a little bit down the street from this grocery store.  Of course we had to stop by.

As my wife was driving to Walmart, I called the 800 number on the back of the gift card. The automated system asked me to enter my 16 digit card number, card expiration date, then 3 digit security code on the back.  Then the automated system allowed me to choose a 4 digit PIN code.  The recording told me that I “cannot use this gift card to withdrawal cash at ATMs or for a cash advance.”

Once inside Walmart, I walked right up to the customer service department (where people can go to purchase money orders, cash checks, and pay bills.  I handed the cashier my Bluebird card and told her I wanted to load it with $500.  Then I swiped my Visa gift card, entered my PIN.  Within seconds, my transaction was approved and my Bluebird account was loaded with $500.

When I logged into my Bluebird account, this is what the transaction looked like:
I may experiment with other ways to liquidate Visa gift cards in the future such as purchasing money orders or going to get cash advances at the bank.  Visa gift cards offer another way to load our Bluebird accounts in addition to Vanilla Reload cards. Using credit cards that give you extra points for grocery store purchases can really sweeten the deal.

On the way out of Walmart I noticed that the Bluebird starter packs were missing from the shelf:
Strange, but the best way to get your Bluebird account started is still to go to to sign up for free.  

Go slow or you may find yourself shut down.  If you don't normally put a lot of spend at grocery or drugstores, and then you suddenly start charging several thousand a month at those locations, you will raise red flags and your credit card company may notice and start asking you questions.  Some credit card companies may deem an "unsatisfactory relationship" with you and shut you down without prior notice.  Proceed slowly and with caution.


  1. This is good news because you can NOW use your Visa or MasterCard gift card as a debit card with your PIN.


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