Beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards

Updated: 1/6/2016

In April of 2013 a change in the law resulted in many Visa and Mastercard gift cards becoming pin-enabled. While these cards do not allow ATM withdrawals, they otherwise generally work as debit cards in most transactions.

There are a variety of pin-enabled Visa & Mastercard gift cards on the market. This guide will cover the most common and show you how to find or set the pin and which stores carry which types of cards.

For more information on Bluebird, Serve, see: The complete guide to Bluebird, REDcard, and Serve

Jump to: U.S. Bank, Metabank, Incomm (Vanilla), Sunrise BankGiftCards.com

U.S. Bank

visa gift card pins

Where to purchase: Most grocery stores.

How to set the pin: Sometimes the pin comes in the package. If it doesn’t, call 1-866-952-5653 to set the pin via the telephone.

Example uses: 

  • Load to Bluebird/Serve at Walmart
  • Load to Serve at Family Dollar, Dollar General & Rite Aid.

Mastercard Trick:

When trying to load a U.S. Bank Mastercard to Bluebird/Serve at a Walmart register, you must hit the red cancel button almost immediately after swiping so you can change the payment type to “debit” or the load will fail. These Mastercards load normally at Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosks.

Metabank

visa gift card pins

Metabank Visas in the old (yellow) and new (purple) packaging.

Where to purchase: Staples, Staples.com (affiliate link), Officemax, GiftCardMall.com, Staples.com, Simon Malls, Macerich Malls.

How to set the pin: The pin is automatically set as the last four digits of the card number. The pin can be changed by calling the number on the back of the card or going to GoWallet.com.

Example uses:

  • Load to Bluebird/Serve at Walmart
  • Load to Serve at Family Dollar, Dollar General & Rite Aid.

Incomm (Vanilla)

visa gift card pins

Where to purchase: Walgreens, CVS, Toys R Us, Office Depot

How to set the pin: The pin is set when you first use the card. When paying, simply enter any four digit pin number and that becomes the pin number for the card.

Example uses:

  • Load to Serve at Family Dollar, Dollar General & Rite Aid.

Note: In general, these cards do not work at Walmart, although some people have had success liquidating them at Walmart when loading in denominations of $50 or less.

Sunrise Bank

visa gift card pins

Looks very similar to Metabank packaging.

Where to purchase: Walmart, Sears

How to set the pin: The pin is automatically set as the last four digits of the card number. The pin can be changed by calling the number on the back of the card or going to GoWallet.com.

Example uses:

  • Load to Bluebird/Serve at Walmart
  • Load to Serve at Family Dollar, Dollar General & Rite Aid.

Note: Cards issued by Sunrise bank often come in a very similar looking package to cards issued by Metabank. The pin and liquidation process is the same for cards issued by both banks.

GiftCards.com

visa gift card pins

Where to purchase: GiftCards.com (This is an affiliate link. I will earn a small commission if you use this link)

How to set the pin: These cards are activated online. Upon activation you will be given a pin. The pin can be changed manually on the website if you prefer to set your own. You can find detailed instructions for activation and changing the pin here.

Example uses:

  • Load to Bluebird/Serve at Walmart
  • Load to Serve at Family Dollar, Dollar General & Rite Aid.

Note: These cards are issued by Incomm, but unlike Vanilla and other Incomm issued cards, they have been known to work at Walmart without issue.

Jump to: U.S. Bank, Metabank, Incomm (Vanilla), Sunrise BankGiftCards.com

Comments

  1. The post doesn’t mean they can be purchased through CC right? The Incomm(Vanilla) at OD can only be purchased with cash or did they start accepting CCs? Also, I’ve never had success with Walgreens unless they changed to accept CCs recently.

    The grocery stores in Miami do not sell those variable $20-$500, Publix, Winn Dixie or Sedano’s.

    • Cash vs. credit policies are generally regional. In many areas of the country Walgreens takes credit cards, but in some they are cash only.

      As for Office Depot, the only cards that are hard coded as cash only are the variable load Vanilla cards. Fixed value cards can be purchased with a credit card as long as the store allows it. Again, some stores are cash only, but it isn’t a corporate policy.

  2. That all depends on the the retailer. The retailer decides weather or not they accept a credit card to buy them. He is simply sharing this to inform you.

  3. So this is probably a dumb question but this is my first time doing it….Can I pay a credit card bill eg amex with the pin giftcard or does it have to be loaded onto redbird/serve etc and then used to pay my bill?

    • To my knowledge, it has to be loaded onto Serve or whatever FIRST. I could be wrong, but I don’t think you can pay straight from the debit card.

  4. I noticed on giftcardmall.com that the T&Cs now say that the VGCs no longer come with a PIN. The PIN section states:

    A PIN is a four-digit code that may be used to make purchase transactions instead of signing for your transaction. You will not receive a Personal Identification Number (“PIN”) with your Card Account.

    Has anyone ordered a VGC from giftcardmall lately successfully through a CB portal and loaded it onto BB/Serve?

    • I just purchases 2x$250 VGCs from the GCM website. They did not come with a PIN, nor could it be set when registering the card online. (I think–I’m going to go back to the site no and double-check.) Neither cards are working to reload Serve.

      Still researching how to liquidate them… if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears 🙂

      The good thing is that my name is on them and it’s possible to register with your address online. Right now thinking I may link them to my Paypal and buy gift cards at eBay…

  5. If I am able to purchase say a $500 vanilla gift card ($3.95 fee) using my ink visa cc from CVS and I get a REDbird card from Target and deposit the $500 into the REDbird, what happens to the $500. Is it now considered cash or do I use it as a CC or can I withdraw the $500 from REDbird to cash?

    • Once on Redbird (REDcard), you can unload it:
      – Credit, by paying with it at stores or online.
      – Billpay, paying the bill of the credit card(s) you used to buy the gift cards.
      – Cash, via ATM at Target.
      – Withdraw it to your checking account linked with Redbird, via Redbird online.

      Generally speaking, it is suggested to use the last two methods lightly.

  6. I have an old Vaniilla Visa card that I need to unload. I only have Bluebird. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance for your comments. I am in central Texas.

    Sandra

    • I WAS successful last week loading it using a Wal-Mart money center machine. However, you can ONLY load $49 at a time. Any more than that and it’s doubtful that it’ll work.

    • As Brad said, many people have success loading them to Bluebird in increments of less than $50.

    • When did this change occur? I have not unloaded for over a year. Can I do more than 1 $50 unload per visit? I have a card with over $300 to unload.

      Thank you once again foe the data points.

      Sandra

  7. Hi FM,

    As an ultimate newbie to this I’m a little unclear on how to close the loop on the process. Do you then use the gift cards as ATM cards and get the cash out of them, which you then use to pay off the original CC purchase of the gift cards?

    I’m still searching around your site for information so sorry if this question has been asked a million times or if you can post to the article that would be a better primer.

    Cheers!
    Greg

    • Hi Greg. Most people use them to load Bluebird or Serve at Walmart or REDbird at Target. You can find out more about those cards here.

      frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/the-complete-guide-to-bluebird-redcard-serve-and-softserve/

  8. Is there any way to find out which Walmarts have the kiosk for bluebird? If there is no kiosk can I load with a cashier? Also how do I know if I am getting a gift card with a pin?

    • It does still allow, I tried VGC several time in the past few days, no problem. But sometimes (twice to me), when you try to load a consecutive gift card, the system doesn’t let you pass whatever you try. So Good luck

  9. I tried to load a visa gift card from best buy at Bluebird. I received an error message saying “debit not approved call authorizer”…has anyone else ever gotten this message? Any suggestions?

    I loaded 2 two hundred dollar cards via the cashier, because the machine was down. I went to another location and their machine was down also. I tried to load it with the cashier and it would not load. I tried again at the kiosk today, and that is the error message that I received.

  10. First time using serve vip at a Walmart kiosk. It did load my 3 $500 visa gift cards to my serve account but it charged me $3.74 fee for loading each one. Is this fee something new and unavoidable or am I not setting up the load properly to avoid a fee?

  11. I just tried to liquidate Vanilla GC for $17.00 and then $15 at Wal-Mart kiosk. I know the PIN is correct but I am getting declined message 55. Anyone help? This is was my first ever attempt to try it, maybe I am doing it wrong. Please advise.

  12. AgFed Visa Gift card is dead.

    “Purchase of VISA Gift Cards No Longer Available Online
    Effective Monday, November 16, 2015, AgFed will no longer offer the option of purchasing VISA Gift Cards online. If you would like to purchase a gift card, please visit one of our branches to do so. “

  13. I am trying to load VGC that were purchased at Staples and Best Buy. I get the error message “debit is not authorized (or allowed), can remember which one. Further states please contact authorizer. Is it the cards or is it my bluebird card? Any suggestions?

    • I’m having the same problem with 2 simon mall gift cards I’m trying to load to Bluebird. Debit not authorized. Please call issuer.

  14. Are people reliably loading $500 with Vanilla Visa onto Serve at family dollar? Or is it like walmart, only allowing smaller loads?

  15. I’ve loaded some (not a whole lot) with no technical issue, only have attempted one $500 Vanilla card at a time, but at least at one store I was turned away due to store policy not taking debit cards (cash only).

    Things vary locally, as with everything else MS, so you will have to try in your area.

  16. Looking at MaceRich mall websiite. Apparently, I can order 10 $500 VG’s, for $4.00 Each, plus $10 Flat Rate Shipping. Came to $5050 (About) for 10. I can even get my name on Them! But the website shows they are affiliated with Gift Card Mall, which is notorious for no pins. Can i use These to buy MO at WM? Will They have Pins?

  17. Shawn, I made the mistake of buying visa cards without pin. Any idea of which options I have to liquidate these? Please let me know.

  18. You can always invoice your second email account via paypal, then follow the link and pay without logging in by using the gift card. They will hit you with a 2.9% fee, but might be worth it….

  19. Walmart sucks. I have 2 $300 VISA CGs purchased at Staples (trying to learn the MS routine). I’ve tried 3 stores in CA; they are all declining “debit” loads to Bluebird. I think I’ll just get rid of Bluebird (I’ve only successfully loaded $200 to it since opening it 2 months ago!) & maybe try Serve so I can load it online.

      • My bad, I see now that you can only load Serve online using an AmEx credit card. This earns no AmEx rewards. It could only really help with reaching sign-up bonuses. But AmEx now limits these to once per lifetime, right? 🙁

        My comment was more along the lines of getting away from the need to visit horrible WalMarts. I have never found a money kiosk that worked with Bluebird, and I only found one cashier with about 12 tries in 3 stores, who was able to successfully process loading a previous VISA CG I had bought @ Staples.

    • I tried to load $500 of master card gift card bought from Safeway to BlueBird at Walmart and it failed, each time it says the pin for the debit load is in correct, but i know the pin has been set up right. Any one has the same experience?

  20. “Mastercard Trick:
    When trying to load a U.S. Bank Mastercard to Bluebird/Serve at a Walmart register, you must hit the red cancel button almost immediately after swiping so you can change the payment type to “debit” or the load will fail. These Mastercards load normally at Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosks.”

    I have no idea if this works. Probably not, based on my experiences with this aspect of the hobby so far.

  21. Loved the post and the replies. Could you please give a list of where you can buy money orders with various gift cards and which gift card you can use at various prices that you can buy money orders

  22. I’ve read multiple complaints about GCM not providing a PIN. I’ve recently spoken with someone at their office. She mentioned that all of their Visa GCs are backed by MetaBank. She also mentioned that all of them can registered and setup with a PIN, but they don’t come with one by default. It just seems like a not too difficult, extra step that needs to be completed after receiving the card. Has anyone setup a PIN and used one of their GCs to load the bluebird ?

  23. I tried to purchase a couple of GCs from the giftcardmall, but the “risk” team cancelled the order with no explanation. The support team is going to reach out to them and try to find out more info. Has this happened to anyone before? If so, were you able to find out why? I’d like to know of possible reasons before I try again like the customer service rep suggested.

    • I tried to order from GCM myself and got the message from the risk team. It basically it said they cancelled all orders from new customers. I tried twice to purchase gift cards for different amounts with that same result. I didn’t bother asking why. But they were less expensive and they were available in a lot of the cashback sites. I would like to know why it was canceled.

  24. Hello everyone. New to the game and have been reading up…sorry I didn’t start this a few years back. Read the primers and tend to get caught up in reading unique angles, acronyms, expert tips. Would appreciate if someone had a few minutes to correspond via email to review the basics (concept, how to complete the loop, minimize fees, using gift cards to load etc). – pixelrogue via gmail. TIA.

  25. For fees around 70c per $1,000 money order (I pay fees in cash.) in Walmart, I deposit MOs in my bank account to pay off the credit card statements and get big signup bonuses. MS handy.
    Also, I get the big signup bonuses by prepaying utilities, cable. I get it back from no monthly payments for many months.Another MS.

    • Let me get this straight. You go to Walmart with your spanking new CC and buy $1,000.00 money order for .70, then deposit that money order into your bank? Or deposit into BB? Nate

      • Jerry, i’ve used that technique before, but usually i liquidate some GC’s into money orders to deposit into my bank account, i would be careful with the amounts that you deposit in your bank account as the bank will report suspicious activity

        Nate – I wouldn’t venture into this arena unless you are quite well into your MS spending rotation.

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