Yet Another Reason Prepaid Debit Gift Cards Are A Terrible Idea

Cody had a Visa gift card, and he used it up to buy a grill, ordering online from Lowe’s for in-store pickup. He didn’t say where the gift card came from: maybe it was a present or he received it from a rebate. It doesn’t really matter. He used it for only part of his purchase. The problem came when he forgot to pick up the grill and other items that he bought for almost a month. The store where he was supposed to pick it up no longer had it in stock, but they couldn’t transfer the purchase to a different store. He needed to get a refund for the grill that he had ordered online, then buy it over again at another store. Easy enough…if he hadn’t used up the prepaid card and then tossed it out.

On 11/26 (Black Friday) last year, I placed an online order for in-store pickup at Lowes.com. I bought a grill and a couple pre-lit 4’ trees. The nearest store with the trees in stock was approx. 40 minutes away, but it was fine as I drive past the area often. I paid with a few merchandise cards and a generic Visa gift card.

On 12/22, I had not yet picked up the items. My wife called the store and asked if I could pick up the grill locally as all stores carried it. On the same call, they said the trees were no longer in stock. I questioned why two weren’t held after I bought them, but was just told “sorry.” The grill could not be transferred, but they could call my local store to have them sell it to me for the original sale price and I could get a refund when I stopped by. I bought the grill locally, but instead of waiting for me to show up to process the refund, they did it immediately to the original form of payment without my knowledge. Fast forward to this weekend, I was able to make it to the store to attempt to process my returns. The trees purchase price was refunded in a merchandise card. At this I find out the grill had already been refunded to the gift card. I am positive it wasn’t a debit or credit card as I keep detailed records of all open cards, including open/close dates, balance due dates, usernames, passwords, and account numbers. The last 4 digits supplied by the store didn’t match any permanent card owned by me. I was advised by a Lowes employee that this has happened before, and to simply call Visa with the 4 digits and the purchase/refund date and they can track the card and issue a refund check. No chance of it being that easy … Visa required all 16 digits (I didn’t have) and the original gift card purchase receipt (I didn’t have). They also state the they do not handle the money storage associated with their gift cards, only the processing of the funds. I would need to contact the bank that issued the gift cards for information, but different banks issue the cards depending on the store from where it was bought (which I don’t know). I called Lowes back, I asked if they can refund the card, then they have the 16 digit number somewhere correct? They claimed that a person cannot get access to the number, it’s secured with the computer systems. On a side note, they issued the original refund based on a call from my wife, not me. So an unnamed bank is holding my funds that were issued by a refund not directly authorized by me.