Wednesday, May 08, 2013

VISA gift cards suck: A rant

A few years ago, someone gave me a $25 VISA gift card as a thank you for something. I thought it was a nice gesture, but tucked it away in a drawer. Then a few months later I was cleaning out the drawer, found the card and slipped it into my wallet. It eventually made it into my travel wallet as emergency money. But I never found a reason to use it.

Finally, on my recent trip to Boise I glanced at the card and noticed it had an expiration date of 8/2013. I figured I should use it or lose it. So I pulled it out at a store in Boise and tried using it. The card reader said the card didn't have enough money for the transaction (just under $12). I was puzzled, but didn't really think much about it.

I decided to go online to find out how much was loaded on the card. I looked on the back of the card and struggled to read type so tiny that it could have been used to inscribe the Bible on a grain of rice. It read:

This Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license from Visa S.A. Inc.  This card is distributed and serviced by either ITC Financial Licenses Inc. or IH Financial Licenses Inc. depending on the state or territory in which this Card is purchased. This Card is not redeemable for cash. Except where prohibited by law, a Service Fee of $2.50 per month will be applied to the remaining balance of this Card beginning in the seventh (7th month following the date of activation. Except where prohibited by law, a Re-Issuance Fee of $5.95 will be assessed for shipping and handling to replace the Card. By accepting or using this Card, Cardholder agrees to be bound by the Cardholder Agreement as amended from time to time. Cardholder agrees to notify immediately if this Card is lost, stolen or used without permission. For balance information go to or call 1.800.571.1376.

I'm no lawyer, but I immediately deduced that I had been screwed out of $25. Sure enough after visiting and entering the card information, eight $2.50 service fees were deducted from the card value. And although there were only $20 in service fees deducted from the $25 card, there was no value left on it. I'm not sure what happened to the remaining $5.

Adding insult to injuring, the website offers only a 1-800 number and a snail mail address for inquiries. Who in this century doesn't have an email address? My assumption is they no your average person doesn't want to waste the time and energy to write them knowing the response would be to read the user's agreement on the back of the card (which I could never have read without my bifocals). And who reads the user's agreement on a gift card? You would assume someone paid $25 for it plus a service fee up front. Charging $2.50 a month for the card if you don't use it seems borderline criminal.

And I love the legal mumbo jumbo line about "Cardholder agrees to be bound by the Cardholder Agreement as amended from time to time." How can you agree to an agreement that changes from time to time without your knowledge or review?

Shame on you Visa! Shame on you Vanilla Visa as well. I'm seriously thinking of getting rid of all my Visa cards and switching to American Express. And you can bet I'll never buy a Visa gift card for anyone for any reason.

But maybe I should check out American Express gift cards and read their user agreements first.


Naughti Biscotti said...

No way! I thought you were lying about the "vanillavisa" thing. I thought there was no way that website actually existed and you were just putting subliminal messages in your posts (or easter eggs). It's there!

This whole issue pisses me off. I hate gift cards as it is but this goes way too far.

I once recieved a gift card from an employee for my birthday. I don't frequent the store so I gave it to someone else. That someone else has a son who autistic. He gets angry occasionally. He was angry that his mother had locked him out of her bedroom so he stole her gift card out of her purse, cut it into the shape of a key, and broke into her room with it. We had a good laugh about it.

I honestly think that is the only time anyone has gotten any use out of a gift card I have given them.

Time said...

Lie? Me? The irony of it being called "vanillavisa" did not escape me.

Love the story of the boy cutting the gift card into the shape of a key to break into his mother's room.

You should write a blog :)