We received a reader report over the weekend about a problem he had with Visa Gift Cards bought at Staples: when he opened the package, the gift cards were blank. In other words, they had no numbers. Here’s what I think you could do if this ever happened to you.
The problem: What’s the PIN? How do you check the balance?
If you’re planning to swipe your card to purchase something that costs the full value of the card or more, the lack of any numbers may not seem to matter much (since, for a regular purchase that runs as credit, you can just swipe the card and the payment terminal will recognize the info since that information is likely stored in the magnetic strip even if it didn’t get printed on the physical card.
However, if you intend to use your card(s) as debit, you know that the default PIN on these MetaBank cards is the last 4 digits of the card number. Blank cards present a problem there. Furthermore, if you’d like to check the balance or change the PIN online, you’ll need the card number for that as well. No card number is no good.
What to do if this happens to you
The reader who reported this problem has a magnetic reader, so he was able to get the information off the cards by swiping them. However, if you don’t have a card reader, what do you do?
Truthfully, I haven’t been in this situation myself (I’ve bought lots of Visa Gift Cards and never opened a package to a blank, nor have I heard of others having this issue, so I expect it is a fairly isolated occurrence). However, I think the first step is making sure you’ve kept your receipt. The Staples receipt shows a serial number (S/N) that should match the long bar code number on the bottom of your gift card. With the serial number, Blackhawk should be able to look up the card information to see when and where it was loaded. I’d recommend calling the number on the back of the gift card and explaining what happened. I would further expect that Blackhawk may require further information (perhaps the transaction confirmation number from the receipt and/or photos of the receipt and card, etc) and may need to investigate before re-issuing. However, I’d expect that they could indeed be reissued and I’ve read about this working in the past for a lost card (and in that case, within just a few days).
You could alternatively start at the store where you purchased the card. I would expect that in 98% of cases, the store is going to tell you to call Blackhawk. However, I did once have a (totally different) problem with a couple of gift cards and the store manager took cash out of the register and gave me my money back and said he’d have to follow up and get it fixed later. I think it’s really unlikely that a store manager would offer that kind of solution, but I imagine the likelihood decreases if you wait days to go back to the store. Most likely, you’re going to have to call Blackhawk to get this fixed.
A third solution, and likely the easiest, is the one recommended by THEsocalledfan in the comments: simply buy something cheap with the card. Your receipt after making a purchase with the card will likely show the last 4 digits of the card — and voila! You have the card number.
This (likely very isolated) problem is a good reminder to keep your receipts. It pays to be organized. If you don’t have a card reader and you’d chucked the receipt in the garbage on the way out of the store, I imagine you’d have a hard time getting any help on getting the card re-issued and then be stuck swiping it as credit (and hoping no cashier sees that it is blank as I can’t imagine anyone believing you that you opened the gift card and it was just blank). With the receipt, it should be relatively simple to get a replacement card re-issued.
H/T: Reader THEsocalledfan