Your Visa Gift Card Will Self-Destruct If Used Within 24 Hours

Stephanie bought a $100 Vanilla Visa gift card at her local CVS in Richmond, VA. She went right home and tried to use it to make some purchases online. When the card was declined, she studied the fine print that came with the card: “Funds may not be available for 24 hours after purchase.” So she waited the 24 hours and tried it again the next day. Still no luck. When she called the customer service number she was told to go back to CVS. At CVS, a manager told Stephanie (and apparently many others before her) that by using the card within 24 hours she had rendered her card agreement invalid. Bang, there goes $100.

With some help from NBC “investigators”, Stephanie was able to get some of her money back. But, regardless, these types of “gift” credit card are notoriously fishy. A Vanilla Visa gift card like the one Stephanie used charges an activation fee of around $5, plus a $2.50 monthly service fee if the card is not used within seven months. Not exactly better than plain old cash. And even if you’re searching for a quick “no-hassle” credit card in order to make purchases online, many retailers don’t honor them anyway.

The current credit card reform bill in the Senate has a provision aimed at curbing some of the worst gift card practices. Find out more about it here.

12 On Your Side Alert: Gift Cards [NBC]
(Photo: Rob Lee)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.