Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards

A new online bill pay service called Evolve Money launched in September of last year and evolved into something useful in November (see their launch blog post here and their November post here).  This service has a few unique features that make it particularly interesting to mile and point collectors: free bill pay; pay with debit card or prepaid card; or pay with reload cards such as RELoadit Packs or EVOLVE Pay Bucks.


I’ve tested this service for a few weeks now and found that it works well if you can find the company you’re trying to pay.  They do not yet publish a full biller directory, so you’re at the mercy of their barely adequate bill search function.  Of the bills I pay regularly that do not allow credit card payments, I was only able to find one available through Evolve Money, but it was a good one: my mortgage (via Wells Fargo).  If you’re lucky, you may be able to use this service to make car payments, loan payments, Education Savings Plan payments (529 plans), utility payments, local tax payments, and more.

Making Payments

Assuming you can find the biller you want to pay, the process of making a payment is dead simple.  Select the biller, enter the amount you want to pay, then enter your debit card / prepaid card information.  I’ve successfully made numerous payments with a prepaid reloadable card and with Visa and MasterCard gift cards.  One great thing about being able to pay with gift cards is that you do not have to register the card first (the card does need to be activated first, though, of course).  Within Evolve Money, I simply enter in my name and address along with the Visa or Mastercard gift card number and the payment has gone through fine (most of the time – see Problems, below).



UPDATED 6/11/2014:

  • For each unique account that you pay via Evolve (such as a car loan, for example), you can make no more than 4 separate payments per calendar month.  I’ve confirmed that it is calendar month.  So, it should be possible to make 4 payments near the end of one month and then 4 more payments at the beginning of the next month.
  • Even if you and your spouse have separate Evolve accounts, no more than 4 payments per month can be made to the same biller account (e.g. to the same car loan).
  • If you have multiple accounts with one biller, you may make up to 4 payments per account.  For example, if you own two homes and have mortgages on each with the same bank, you can make a total of 8 payments per month to that bank: 4 to each mortgage account.
  • Each individual payment can be no more than $999.
  • Each biller account can be paid no more than $1000 per day.
  • Payments made with “cash” (via EVOLVE Pay Bucks™ or RELoadit™ Pack) are not subject to the 4 payment per month limit.


I’ve encountered a few small issues so far:

Billers can’t be found: I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating.  I would like to use this service to pay all bills that can’t otherwise be paid by credit card, but most of my billers are not yet available through this service (or I haven’t found them through their search function).

Failed payment: One of my attempts at using a gift card to make a payment failed without explanation.  For several days, the gift card showed zero funds available, but eventually the hold on the money went away.  I tried again with the exact same gift card and the payment went through without a hitch.

Mortgage applied to principal: My Evolve Money mortgage payments initially show up in my Wells Fargo account as “unapplied funds”.  Then, after a few days, the funds get automatically applied to my mortgage’s principal.  This would be fine if my goal was to pay off my mortgage early, but it won’t help to cover my monthly required payments.  I believe that I can call and ask to have the unapplied funds assigned to my monthly payments instead.  That’s what I intend to do going forward.

Use for real spend, not manufactured spend

Some enterprising individuals found that it was possible to manufacture debit card spend (for the rewards) by using Evolve Money to fund an education savings account and then immediately withdraw the funds.  Rinse and repeat.  Not surprisingly, the powers that be are actively working to stop this practice.  On Saturday, The Free-quent Flyer posted his amazing interview with a Vice President at Evolve Money.  My takeaway from this interview is this: Evolve Money is happy for us to use debit cards or even gift cards to pay legitimate bills, but they will most likely shut down those who try to use the service to manufacture spend.

Other quick takeaways from the interview include:

  • Free Bill Pay is a loss-leader for the company.  They plan to make money with same-day payments (for which there is a fee), and by directing customers to opportunities to save money (and Evolve Money will earn an affiliate commission when the customer switches services based on their recommendation).
  • Paypal’s debit card (the one that earns cash back for signature transactions) does not pay cash back for Evolve Money payments even though the transactions are listed as signature transactions.
  • There are no plans to allow customers to add their own billers
  • The ability to pay credit card bills is coming eventually, but they will limit how they can be paid (e.g. possibly no gift cards) and will charge a fee of some sort.  Note: some “retail store cards” are already available for payment including: Amazon, Disney, Sears, and more.

Wrap up

Evolve Money is a terrific new service that can be used to earn rewards for paying real life bills that are not usually amenable to credit card payments.  The simplest approach is to use one of the few remaining rewards debit cards to make your payments.  Alternatively, you can use one of the many reloadable prepaid debit cards in which it is possible to directly or indirectly reload the card with a credit card.  Or, if you find a place to buy RELoadit Packs or Evolve Pay Bucks with a credit card, you can use those.  Finally, you can use your credit card to buy MasterCard or Visa gift cards and pay your bills with those.

UPDATE 6/11/2014: For updated information about Evolve Money, please read: Evolve Money talks

Hat tip: Free-quent Flyer and FlyerTalk

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  1. Any guidance as to which specific GCs can be use through Evolve to pay bills? I have access to AmEx, MasterCard (US Bank), and Visa (MetaBank) variable load GCs with no fee/charge. Any help appreciated. Just tried a $50 fixed-amount MasterCard and got back a “This is not a debit card” message when tried to submit payment. Greatly appreciate any specific details on how to make Evolve work. Thanks!

    • All MasterCard and Visa gift cards should work. Amex cards should not work. Currently they are having some technical issues so you probably got caught in that. I’d suggest trying again in a couple of weeks if you can wait that long.

      • @RJP, which GCs are no charge to load? Are they re-loadables? If so, do you buy GCs to load the re-loadables? Where? Which ones? Sorry for all of the questions, but your post intrigued me since I buy 500 Van Visa at CVS & 200 visa at office supple, but all cost to buy. Thanks.

        • @Marshall – using both MC and Visa GCs. Mostly $500 non-reload. I’m fortunate in that I have access to MC and Visa GCs with no fee. (actually, at a $3 discount from face value) so there’s no cost whatsoever for using Evolve. (I’m making money actually)

          The only squirrelly payment is my mortgage, as they really don’t like receiving multiple payments over a period of days. Each month I need to call them and tell them to apply multiple payments to the amount due on the payment due date. (Using multiple accounts to pay on the same day, as mentioned above, won’t fix this as they would still be multiple payments.)

        • Further evidence of large banks being bad. Here you have a mortgage company that wont let you pay it. Gee what a great way to extort money

        • MM – no evil banks here. It makes sense that I would need to call them to explain that the 8 payments of $500 – for a total of $4000 – that they received from me via Evolve on April 28, 29, 30, and May 1 needed to be applied to the $3588.11 regular payment due on May 1, with the balance being applied to “additional principle.” How would they know otherwise.

        • Ohh, thats not squirly. You said so squirly so i thought of cases ive heard where mort companies and loans wont allow unscheduled payments at all

        • @RJP How do you get the GCs with no fee? BTW, are you going to be in Charlotte this weekend? Love to get together and talk about MS strategies.

        • Register at my local grocery store spits out a “$6 off your next visit” on any gift card purchase over $200 and a “$3 if you fill out a survey” coupon on every order. $505.95 – $9 = 496.95 per $500.

          No Charlotte for me.

  2. I got the same error with an MC GC…I had to do it with my regular debit. At least I saved $5 w/ a promo code I found online. How do you know they’re having technical issues if my regular debit worked?

  3. FM- Just had the same issue with Wells Fargo mortgage, and they would not apply it toward my monthly payment. They insist they do not accept partial payments and will not “hold” money until they receive the full amount. This is such a bummer. Did you have a different result when you spoke with them? I emailed evolve, as this really makes this payee useless with their 1k limit per day.

    • J: I also got nowhere on the phone, but I have been able to make monthly payments. I had to create multiple Evolve accounts to get around the $1k limit so that I could make the full payment all in one day. When I did that, Wells automatically applied it to the monthly payment rather than principle
      WARNING: Evolve has begun to shut down the ability to pay biller where people use multiple Evolve accounts to overcome the $1K per day limit.

      • FM- That’s fantastic! So the assumption being, if they get the full amount in one day even though it’s in partial increments, they will apply it properly? My payment is $3,100, this is going to be interesting… Thanks

        • That’s right. I’ve done that successfully twice in a row now. Currently Evolve is having some issues with certain gift cards, though, so it might not be a smooth process

        • FM- Interesting. I had luck with Visa (mygiftcardsite version) but notice my local grocery store only has Mastercard these days. Any fault with MC you know of? What have folks had issue with?

  4. I just deleted their website from my favorites and drained my JH Preferred card which seems only to be good if you are paying a Citicard bill……that worked for the 10k drain but since I won’t be staying with AA the card has little or no value left as it is so limited with bill pay………now to just find some VR cards for my Bluebird……

    • No, except for some retail store credit cards, most cards can’t yet be paid for with Evolve Money. That said, they claim that they’re working on that functionality, but will charge for it.

  5. Another confirmation that MC US Bank GC’s are not working. Tried registering it online even, getting a pin over the phone, all to still get the “this is not a debit card” error on Evolve. Visa (unregistered, no pin) goes through in a heartbeat without issue. Weird. Hopefully they fix this soon.

  6. With only $1000 allowed per day, how are you paying your mortgage (I’m assuming you’re like the rest of us with over $1000 per month mortgages). ?

  7. I used my citibank credit card on Evolve and it got through without asking me anything? I’m gonna be charged or something?

    • That’s interesting! Log into your Citi account to see whether it shows up as a cash advance or not. It might not show you one way or another until the charge goes from pending to actual (I’m not sure)

  8. anyone been having issues with evolve, lately?

    i’ve had 2 GCs fail to process through evolve (even though on, it shows evolve has withdrawn the $ from the GC). however, the bill does not get paid.

    when i look at the “history” on evolve, it says “attention required”

      • No problems running 10 of the Staples $200 MC GCs through over the course of today and yesterday in 4 separate payment batches. I had to make 4 separate trips to Staples so I could get the $20 rebate 4 different times since the manager wouldn’t let me split it to 4 separate transactions. Luckily it’s close by.

  9. So how do the Amazon or Sears gift cards work on Evolve? I don’t think the store gift cards allow name and address registrations. Does anyone have experience with store gift cards on Evolve?

  10. For those doing mortgage payments, sometimes it’s possible to make a two payments (one on Sat, the other on Sun) and they should both process on the Tuesday meaning you can get up to $2,000. Won’t help most people because their mortgage will be more than 2k per month, but might help some.

  11. Even if the $2k hits on the sane day, it won’t help most, since it will show up as 4 payments of $500… while the bank’s computer is looking for one payment of $2000. Most banks will assume any money LESS than the amount due is an extra principle payment from the PREVIOUS month.

    • Many people have had success in doing this, so it is probably not correct to say that most banks would apply the money to principal. I’d guess that some do, but it seems as if most apply it to the monthly payment if you pay in full even with several separate transactions on the same day.

      • JP Morgan Chase was able to square it away with multiple payments over a period of five days, after I sent a secure message indicating how the money should be applied. They didn’t seem happy about it though, and recommended that I not do this in the future.

        Next month I think I’ll pay in a way that adds up to the “amount due” on my statement and see if that automagically gets applied properly. Last month I ran it up over that amount to include extra principle, so if the computer was looking for an amount equal to my payment due… it never found a sum of money that equaled that amount. Plus, some of the payments hit prior to the 1st of the month… so perhaps the computer assumed that since there was no “balance due” that those amounts must be extra principle from the prior month.

        If that doesn’t work I’m thinking I’ll make the regular statement payment from my checking account and then just use Evolve for the extra principle amount I pay each month.

    • I have a mortgage with Wells Fargo. I just called them up and asked for any payments I make to be applied to monthly payments as I often go away for long stretches and pay a couple of months in advance.
      Also, if you then do want to make a principal payment you can do it in a bank branch with a form they provide.

  12. For those of you who took advantage of the $200 Visa gift cards from Staples, how long after the cards arrived did you receive the activation codes. It’s been over a week and I’m beginning to get worried. Thanx.

  13. So if i want to pay off $100,000 on my mortgage, I can use my credit card and make $1000 payments for the next 100 days through evolve. I actually want it to credit towards my principal only. Wells Fargo

  14. Jana – you’d want to use DEBIT cards. Evolve doesn’t take CREDIT cards technically.

    Yes, there’s discussion elsewhere that a glitch might currently be letting some get through. However, if you use your credit card, proceed with caution as folks are reporting these are hitting as Cash Advances. The interest on credit card rates on $100k would be substantial.

  15. For the visa GC, you mention that they need to be activated first before using. Does that apply to vanilla ones bought at Office Depot/max where you set your pin on the first use (not prior)? Can those work for a bank payment if you want to use the full $200 amount on the card? Or do you already have had to use it once with an established pin? Thanks

    • Gift cards bought in-store are activated at the register. More importantly, since this post was written, Evolve has changed their policies in many ways: they no longer accept all gift cards and, worse, they charge a 3% fee for the ones they do accept

  16. I have a question as far as using the Evolve Pay bucks to pay your mortgage. Where you able to call the mortgager to have those “unapplied funds” applied to your monthly payment? thanks.

    • I haven’t ever used Evolve Pay bucks. As to calling to apply unapplied funds to my monthly payment: when I called I learned that as long as I sent in the exact amount needed for the bill (even if it was across several payments), they would apply it to the monthly payment.

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