Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What Is a Vanilla Visa Card?
A Vanilla Visa card is a prepaid card, which means that you load money onto it when you purchase it. It is sold as a gift card, though there are several types of these Vanilla cards, and some work like reloadable debit cards as well. This article focuses on the gift card type, which is sold in denominations ranging from $10 to $250+.
What Is It Used For?
- It allows you to make online purchases even if you don't have a debit or credit card.
- This card is accepted anywhere that Visa is accepted, so it allows you to give someone a gift card without having to choose just one retailer.
- You cannot spend more money than you've loaded onto the card, so you don't risk overdraft. This can help people curb their spending.
- Some parents use prepaid cards as "starter" cards for teens who are still learning how to use a credit or debit card responsibly.
But Is It Safe?
In my opinion, the Vanilla Visa gift card is a scam with many different components. Below are a few of the problems I had with this card.
Problems With the Vanilla Visa Prepaid Gift Card
- There is a 24-hour wait to use the cards online.
- Registration doesn't work.
- The website is not secure.
- Customer service is hard to contact.
There Is a 24-Hour Wait to Use the Cards Online
When you buy these cards and activate them (which requires a fee), you can’t immediately use them to make online purchases. You have to wait at least 24 hours before you can register them on the Vanilla Visa website, which must be done before you can use the card online. Even if the website "sees" the purchased amount for the activated gift card, you still cannot register it and use it until 24 hours have passed.
The card’s instructions say vendors may put a 24-hour hold on money, but there is no such warning in the instructions or on the vendor website stating that the card itself must be registered online. In fact, the website’s “important things to know” section says you can use the Vanilla Visa card immediately after purchase. This is not true for online purchases, though I don’t know if this is true for an in-person transaction. Given the poor customer service and general reputation of the company, I doubt it.
Registration Doesn't Work
At least, it never worked for me. For the first full day, any attempt to register my card by entering in my zip code and trying to proceed was denied. After buying two separate Vanilla Visa gift cards at the same time from the same store and making a dozen attempts to register them, I was never able to get a zip code associated with them—meaning I could never actually use them online as was my intent when they were purchased. (I never tried to use these gift cards as debit cards with a vendor.)
The Website Is Not Secure
Card registration issues are not the only problem with the website. I received a warning that the Vanilla Visa website has a broken HTTPS, as well as problems with its SHA-1 Certificate. The TLS connection was secure, according to my browser.
Customer Service Is Hard to Contact
I called customer service as soon as I was able to find a phone number for their customer service department—which was not easy. The phone number for Vanilla Visa support was only shown after I made multiple failed attempts to associate a zip code with my card. The difficulty of finding a good phone number for support is another strike against this Visa gift card. To help other frustrated customers, I'm including the number below.
Vanilla Visa Customer Support: 1-800-571-1376
Ultimately, I was never able to register my gift cards online through the website and had to call the Vanilla Visa phone number to get a zip code associated with my card. And even after I had my zip code associated with it per my conversation with customer service, it still didn’t work that day or the next.
Comparison to the American Express Gift Card
I also tried out an American Express prepaid gift card after giving up on the Vanilla Visa gift card. It has some similarities to the Vanilla Visa, but overall it was a much better experience for me. Here's how the two cards compared:
- Activation Fee: The American Express gift card had the same activation fee ($5.95 at the time) as the Vanilla Visa gift card for a $25 balance.
- Wait Time: The American Express card takes 30 minutes to activate after purchase. As soon as it activates, you can use it for purchases, including online purchases. I was able to use the card the same day I bought it, whereas after three days of trying and failing to use the Vanilla Visa cards, I gave up.
- Registration: You can use any zip code, including your home zip code, for the purchase without calling a phone number or giving away personal information.
Another Problem With Vanilla Visa Cards: Fraud and Scams
Gift cards are common targets for scams and fraud, and the Vanilla Visa cards are no exception. One reason for this is that gift cards are easy to tamper with, as this Consumer Reports article about gift card scams notes.
For example, bar codes can be covered up with stickers that show a different code, leading consumers to unsuspectingly load money straight onto a thief's card instead of their own. The silvery scratch-off substance that covers PIN numbers can also be bought in sticker form, so a thief could scratch it off, record card numbers and PIN numbers, then cover the PIN back up with a sticker, making it extremely hard for consumers to tell that the card has been compromised.
And those are just some of the issues with physical cards sold in stores. There are many other types of online and in-person scams that criminals use to try and gain access to the money on your Vanilla Visa card or other gift card.
Where Did My Money Go?
If you load money onto your card and later check the balance to find your money gone, it's possible that someone else had access to your card information via tampering or hacking. You may see a list of transactions on your card that you did not make, often PayPal transactions.
The Consumer Affairs page for Vanilla Visa gift cards shows numerous reports of this exact situation. It also shows numerous reports of the unhelpfulness of Vanilla Visa's customer service, so you may be out of luck on getting your money back.
How Can I Get My Money Back?
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that, or I'd have gotten my own money back. If a Vanilla Visa gift card is used fraudulently, the company has a bad reputation for not helping victims even after they provide a lot of information. You can contact customer support at 1-800-571-1376, but be careful about what information you share with them. There have been reports that the company demands copies of driver’s license pictures and other information that puts the victim at risk for identity theft. And you don’t want to share this information on their website since it's not secure.
If Vanilla Visa's customer support is not helpful, you might consider submitting a complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. While this likely won't get your money back, it will help force the company to improve its services.
How to Recognize Common Scams
It's hard to spot a card that has been tampered with; the best prevention may be to avoid buying in-store gift cards, per Consumer Reports. But there are many other scams that you can protect yourself against by being aware of them. Awareness will help you make smart decisions about sharing your card information.
These are some examples of scams that readers shared with me. In these situations, scammers ask you to buy a Vanilla Visa card so you can receive some form of benefit—but you can be sure that all the benefit is going to the scammer.
Someone Offers to Give You Money
If my friend asks me to buy a Vanilla prepaid card so he can send me five hundred when I have the card, and he asks me to take a picture of the front and back of it, what should I do?
My daddy wants to give me $1,000. He said that I have to buy a Vanilla card and screenshot the front and back of the card and receipt. He said that I need $100 on that card because if it’s less than that, he can’t send the $1,000. Is it true?
If you buy a card and send the other party a picture of the front and back, they will get the card number and security code. They'll be able to drain money tied to the card. And they may not transfer any money to the card.
Someone Says You Won a Giveaway or Prize
I ran across a person that said they would send me $400 because of some charity giveaway from their church. They want me to buy a Vanilla card, activate it, and send them a picture of the receipt. Is it possible for someone to send money through the Vanilla card with this information?
I have a person saying they want to give me money—that it is a way for them to help people. They are telling me to go get a prepaid Visa card and they will help me put the money on it. Is there any money coming out of my pocket?
The "charity giveaway" like "you won a foreign lottery" is a common scam to steal your financial information. When you provide someone with your card's details—or when they "help" you put money on it—you're not providing them with a way to give you money; you're making it possible for them to take YOUR money.
Someone Offers to Overpay You
I have received a cashier's check for $1,815 and a request for me to buy $1,500 on OneVanilla gift cards. The difference of $300 is my payment for surveying the shop where I buy the gift cards. I do not want to accept this offer, so what should I do?
I sold a book on eBay, and the buyer asked to send me $200 more than the cost of the book so I would help him use a Vanilla Visa gift card. After that, I would send him back the $200 he paid extra. Is this ok? Do I have any risks involved?
No legitimate businesses (or legitimate customers) would make these types of requests. As Consumer Reports notes, scams like these might be part of a money-laundering operation.
Someone Wants to Pay You With Gift Cards
This scam is so common that the Federal Trade Commission has an entire page devoted to informing consumers about it. As the FTC succinctly says, "Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer."
What Not to Do
- Never send someone photos of the front or back of your Vanilla Visa card. They can use that information to withdraw money from the card.
- Never send someone photos of the receipt for the card, either. It may show the full or partial card number.
- Never provide a person or a website with your personal information unless you are 100% sure it is safe.
- Never trust something that is too good to be true, like a gift card offered at a huge discount.
- Never buy a gift card in the hopes that someone will deposit money on it. They won't. Ever.
So, Is It a Scam?
While I and many others have had negative experiences with the Vanilla Visa gift cards, some customers have used them repeatedly without problems. This article is based on my experience. Other people have shared similar issues in the comments and in messages with me. However, you might have a different experience. Based on the few positive reviews I've seen, the company is capable of delivering the promised service once in a while.
Going back to the Consumer Affairs page for the Vanilla Visa gift card, it provides a telling picture of customers' overall experiences with these cards. Out of 200+ reviews in the past year, there were a few positive ones, but the company overwhelmingly received 1-star reviews (out of 5 stars) and has a 1-star satisfaction rating overall. It's notable that the site does not accept zero- or half-star reviews, so 1 is the lowest you can go.
Research Before You Buy
To make these cards worth buying, there need to be better security measures in place to protect the cards both during and after purchase. The immediate solution for consumers is not to buy Vanilla Visa gift cards. Instead, research your prepaid gift card options before you buy, because there are some that don't have these problems; for example, some are usable online or in person within hours of purchase. My advice is to buy a card with better security and customer service than this one.
- The Apple iTunes 866-712-7753 Scam
Scams are everywhere. This article discusses one that has affected many people: fraudulent charges that appear to come from the iTunes store but have nothing to do with Apple. Learn what to watch for on your credit card bill.
- Your Guide to 25 Fees That Prepaid Debit Cards Charge
If you're more interested in prepaid debit cards than gift cards and want to research your options, one thing to look into is their fees. This article discusses 25 prepaid debit card fees and how much you can expect to pay for different cards.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I had bought a vanilla gift card from a CVS pharmacy store of $25 but when I went home I tried buying something online but it didn't let me, so I waited for 24 hrs to try again but it still didn't let me. Then I checked my transactions, and it says I have $0 in my card and that the money had gone to a PayPal account. What do I do?
Answer: It sounds like someone has already used the card. You can't really do anything about it, since the issuing company doesn't care. You can try to print the records and go back to CVS to beg for a refund, assuming the transaction log shows that the transfer to Paypal happened before you bought the card. If the transfer is listed as happening after you bought the card, they'll say you already moved the money and there is nothing to do.
Question: If my friend asks me to buy a vanilla prepaid card so he can send me five hundred when I have the card, and he asks me to take a picture of front and back of it, what should I do?
Answer: Do not do this. If you buy the card and take a picture of the front and back, they will get the card number and security code. They'll be able to drain money tied to the card. And they may not transfer money to the card.
If someone wants to send you money, they can do this through a wire transfer, Paypal, or check.
Prepaid cards come with fees and a risk the funds will expire. Just have them send you the money some other way that reaches your account. The fees are equal or less in these other methods, and you won't be ripped off.
Question: My boyfriend moved to New York and said he wants to send me money but told me I have to buy a vanilla card and I have to add $40 to it for him to be able to send me money, is this true? $40 is a weird number.
Answer: He can send you money via money transfer services like Western Union, money orders through the post office, money sent via apps and banking websites. He could mail you a check. Yes, this is weird on many accounts.
Question: My boyfriend asked me to purchase a vanilla prepaid card for him to send me 2000$. He says it has to be loaded with at least 25/30$ first - is that true?
Answer: Yes, you'd need to pay an activation fee for it to work. No, don't do this. If he needs $2000, do a wire transfer, a bank transfer, or so forth. Don't risk a money transfer method that charges so many fees and is so prone to scams.
Question: I have received a Cashiers Check for $ 1,815, and a request for me to buy $ 1,500 on One Vanilla gift cards. The difference of $300 is a payment for surveying the shop where I buy the gift cards. I do not want to accept this offer so what should I do with the check?
Answer: This is a scam. This is fraud. Do NOT cash that check.
They want you to put real money on a gift card and send it to them. The check is either fake outright, so you lose your real money when you send it to them, or they are laundering drug money, and you're guilty by association for aiding them.
You can take the check to the police and report their request and their information. Or you can take it to your local bank, NOT cash it, report the fraud and let them track it down.
Question: I bought a prepaid one vanilla card with 300 dollars on it and the next day, I see that the money is gone. What do I do?
Answer: The company's customer service blames the retailer. The retailer blames customer service. And both may blame you. You have no recourse. No one helps you. That's why I wrote this article.
Question: I purchased a $200 gift card. It didn't work within 30 minutes of calling card service. What can I do?
Answer: Your experience is similar to others who've commented here. Vanilla Visa does not have adequate fraud protection. When cards are drained by scammers, they blame the customers and do not assist people.
Question: Do I need my social security number to use Vanilla visa card?
Answer: No. No legitimate gift card requires your Social Security Number to use. It isn't a credit card application. You may have to enter a name, address and phone number to register a gift card to use it to pay for things online. Even that information isn't required if you use it like a debit card.
Question: I recently purchased a vanilla reloadable gift card. I waited the 24 hours and the money still wasn’t on there. I even made an account and ordered a specialized card, but the money’s not in their either. How do I find out where it went? I put 50 on the card when I bought it.
Answer: Unless you can get a hold of customer service and they can give you an answer, there isn't one. It is possible your card was already compromised, so the money was drained from the account as soon as it was put on the card. Or you were given incorrect information and essentially wired your money to them twice. You should contact your bank and ask to cancel the "loading" of the card and report the fraud to them.
Question: My daddy wants to give me 1000. He said that I have to buy a vanilla card and screenshot the front and back of the card and receipt. He said that I need 100$ in that card because if it’s less than that, he can’t send it. Is it true?
Answer: Fake. He can buy a card, load it with money and send it to you. He may need information from the card to load it with more funds, but it doesn't need $100 for someone else to load it with more money. What he is asking allows him to drain YOUR $100.
Question: My mom told me to go buy a Vanilla Visa card and call her once I got it because she was going to transfer money to it for me. Ok, so she's not going to scam me, but how does that work?
Answer: It is possible to transfer money to it at the register. Some brands like Amazon let you transfer money like an allowance.
Question: My friend wants me to get a vanilla pre paid card and put $100 on it. After I put $100 on it, he wants me to send him a picture of the receipt. He said he would be able to put $1000 on there? He said just to keep the card pack and papers and receipt safe and it would work. Is that true? Or is that a scam?
Answer: Scam, scam, scam. With the front and back of the card, they can drain the account. You cannot trust the person to put money on it. If they were going to send you money, why not wire it, mail a check or send it another way without so many fees?
Question: I have an Amazon purchase on my Vanilla Visa Gift Card, but no Amazon account (not my purchase). How do I get money back?
Answer: I don't think you can, hence my complaints in the article.
Question: I called the number on the back of my Visa card and it said I got a reward and I stupidly gave them info without thinking. Is this a scam I’m really scared what could happen?
Answer: It depends on the information you gave them. Name and address may not be an issue. There is no reason, however, for someone offering a prepaid debit card to ask for a Social Security Number.
Question: My vanilla card kept declining my purchases. When I called to see why (because I just put $200 on it) they told me they weren't declined but had pending charges (for things I never bought from a website I've never been to). They said it was approved and now my money is gone. I called and can't get anywhere. I'm out $150 and have nothing to show for it but hard work thrown in the garbage. What can I do?
Answer: It sounds like you're another victim of fraud with the Vanilla Visa card. Unfortunately, you can't do anything except try to use the remaining $50 on the card before that, too, is gone.
Question: Someone is asking to buy my vanilla card so they can deposit money on it. Is this a scam?
Answer: If they are asking to buy your specific card, I would be concerned they are trying to access any funds on it. You can buy those cards at drug stores for a couple of dollars to activate.
Question: I was gifted a vanilla card $200. It doesn't work. They told me someone else had "a hold " on the card. The only way to give them proof is to send them all of my personal info and a receipt from the person who bought it (with cash a year ago). Is this a scam with the vanilla card company?
Answer: A hold on the card means it has probably already been used. It is reasonable for the issuing organization to ask for a receipt to verify you are the one who bought the card. The hard part is the personal information. Do you give them the info of the person who bought it or yours? If the person who bought the card used it, then your personal information isn't a match and they'll decline to give you - the person who looks like you don't really own the card - the money. If you provide your personal information to a group that isn't really the help desk, your identity could be stolen, too.
Question: I was rewarded a vanilla gift card of $50. The first night I got it I used it to buy something off the internet. Ok that left me with about 30 or so dollars, I just checked and it said 36 or so was pending and I was left with 1.60. I called them and they said they will cancel that and give me the money back. Is this true? And what the heck happened?
Answer: One possibility is that you placed a duplicate order. More likely, someone already had the card information and used it as soon as they saw it was activated and loaded with money. I doubt the financial institution will give you the money back because they don't care about similar cases of fraud.
Question: I bought my vanilla card on a Friday. I tried to buy something and it kept saying that the card was denied. When I went back to buy something online it said I only had 8cents on the card, when initially I had 40 dollars on the card. It said I made five transactions for 4.99, and the name on the history said gift something. Does it charge a fee for every time you try to buy something?
Answer: You shouldn't be charged a transaction fee, but the line items could be someone ELSE buying 4.99 gift cards using the card information.
Question: Is the Vanilla Visa card like cash or a gift card?
Answer: The Vanilla Visa card is supposed to be used as if it were a debit or credit card.
Question: I've been using the Vanilla Visa cards for years without any issues. I've never been asked for documentation or had a problem registering my zip code. Nor have I ever had any issues ever with ordering anything online right away. What is up with this?
Answer: This article is based on my experience. Other people have shared their issues in the comments and in messages with me. Based on your experience, they're apparently capable of delivering the promised service once in a while.
Question: I bought a vanilla visa gift card of $60. I went online to buy something, but it didn't go through. I went to check the balance and said it had $0. I called vanilla visa gift card for help and I have to send a picture of my ID. Its a total scam. I lost all the money. What can I do?
Answer: This is a common problem, as you can tell from the other comments on this article. The Vanilla Visa gift card provider doesn't care about fraud. They don't help you. I hadn't heard of them asking for ID before, though that would make sense if they were checking whether you're the person who used it previously.
A different question is - who did you give your identification information to? And what information did they require? Just a driver's license is reasonable. If they asked for an SSN or a lot of other identifying information, then you're at risk of identity theft.
Question: I bought a vanilla card a few weeks ago and used it online; it still had 27.77 dollars left. Today I checked the balance and noticed I had nothing left. It showed a transaction that said paypal online. Did I just get robbed?
Answer: Yes, I believe you did. And there's nothing you can do about it. I don't know if this is due to theft of information from the ecommerce site you did business on or something else.
Question: I think I fell for this Vanilla Visa Card scam and gave them my personal information. I'm terrified! What can I do at this point?
Answer: It depends on the information you gave them. Name, address, phone number and email address are floating around in other databases. If you gave anyone your Social Security Number or driver's license number, lock down your credit report right now so that no one can take out a credit card or other loan in your name.
Question: If my Vanilla Visa gift card isn't activated at purchase, can I go back to the store where I bought from and ask them to activate it?
Answer: If it wasn't activated at purchase, you should check to see how much was debited from your bank account / billed to your credit card. Find out how much money may have been applied to it, and you can use that as proof that those funds SHOULD be available on your account.
If no money was taken from your bank account/credit card, then the card won't be activated until you pay the fees to do so and put the money on the card.
Question: I've tried since the day I bought my vanilla prepaid visa at Walgreens to set up account. No progress and same with the phone. I want my $90.00 back I loaded on this card. Can you please help ?
Answer: I suspect the card information was already recorded by thieves who drained the account. If so, the creators of Vanilla Visa won't help you. They'll say the money has already been used.
If you can't set up the account, then you have to go through tech support. However, the money could be debited off the card before you have an active account set up.
Question: I bought a vanilla gift card from Walmart and loaded $35 on it. I bought the card on 11/27 at 3:48pm and someone else spent all of the money on 11/28! Revvedmonkey was the associated name and it looks like this person used the money on paypal and amazon somehow. Is there anyway to track this and prosecute the person who stole the money? I imagine this isn't the perps first time. I will never buy a gift card again!
Answer: The odds are low that the person can be identified, much less prosecuted. The dollar amounts are so low that police and cybercrime experts don't care.
Question: When using my Vanilla Visa Card, they wanted my birthday to fill a report out. Can anything happen if I give my birthday?
Answer: Vendors have legal reasons to want to verify you are over 18.
Question: What if my friend asked me to take a picture of the front and back of my vanilla prepaid card, my home address and my date of birth? Is that suspicious?
Answer: I couldn't put more red flags for identity theft and draining of someone's account unless I added "Social Security Number" to the list.
Question: Is "Visa" as we know it associated with this card or are Vanilla gift cards just using a look-alike emblem? Also it seems this company has quite a history of scamming, why can't the vendors selling this card take on any responsibility, if not why not?
Answer: The Vanilla Visa card is issued by The Bancorp Bank, MetaBank®, and Sutton Bank, not Visa per se. The vendors don't take responsibility because they A. get paid for the activation no matter what. B. different groups have different levels of protection, and you don't hear much about retailers that DO protect card info. C. gift card scams can involve any brand of card, when you're asked to take a picture of the front and back after loading money onto it. This card is just less traceable and thus probably more often used in gift card scams.
Question: What can you do if you received 2 $25 Vanilla gift cards in June 2019 and a month later open them for the 1st time and both are declined? Online they both had a zero balance, so I looked at the transactions for both cards and they were used 3 to 2 times. Yet I never opened them till today (7/9/19)
Answer: This is exactly the problem created by the poor security of the card's very design. And the company's customer service blames the customer, saying you used it so they don't have to do anything.
Question: If I send my vanilla gift card number, can my money be stolen off my account?
Answer: Yes, especially if you send both the card number on the front and verification code on the back.
Question: I have been buying vanilla gift cards for about two years, never had a problem till now. I tried to use it and they told me that I couldn’t use it. I checked the balance and it was gone. I have tried and tried to report that the money was taken off my card. I can’t get through. I’ve tried on line on the site, I have also called the number on the back of the card. After being on hold forever, I’m disconnected. How do I report this fraud?
Answer: This is a common problem, and there isn't much you can do. You could report the financial loss in a police report. That's essential for insurance purposes, such as if you have identity theft insurance.
Question: I had just used a vanilla gift card and had $16.71 left in my balance. Today it says that the card was used and my balance is 0. It says Paypal bird, a code and the amount of money that was used. I never paypaled anyone. What can I do to get the money back?
Answer: Someone can run a credit card / debit transaction through Paypal. This suggests someone had the Vanilla gift card information - including a photo of it - and then debited the card that way. You can't get the transaction reversed unless you can react Vanilla visa customer support and get them reverse it. The problem is that they are hard to reach and tend to blame the customer if you can talk to them.
Question: My boyfriend asked me to buy a OneVanilla gift card of $5 and activate it with $100, then he will send in $2000. Is this true or a scam?
Answer: Scam. This is a scam. You don't have to put $100 on the card for him to send you $2000. But if you send him the card information, he can drain the $100 from the card.
Question: How do we consumers get these Vanilla cards out of these stores?
Answer: I don't think that's the right approach. I think the solution is better security measures to protect the cards during and after purchase. The immediate solution for consumers is don't buy Vanilla Visa but a cash card with better security and customer service.
Question: I ran across a person that said they would send me $400 because of some charity giveaway from their church. They want me to buy a vanilla card, activate it and send them a picture of the receipt. Is it possible for someone to send money through the vanilla card with this information?
Answer: That information can be used to send money to the card, and it can be used to drain the card of funds just like when you take pictures of your credit card. The "charity giveaway" like "you won a foreign lottery" is a common scam to steal your financial information. Do not do this.
Question: I can't get through to Vanilla card support to report my card misplaced. I can't find my paperwork associated with my account. I would like to just transfer to another card, but without my credit card number, it isn't possible. Any suggestions on how I can get that information?
Answer: The only possibility would be if you had a copy of the receipt from the purchase of the card, but Vanilla Visa rarely assists people who have that type of proof. And you're right, it is almost impossible to reach their customer support - or get help from them if you did reach them.
Question: I’m trying to take out a loan from a Macau America company. They said I need insurance and to buy a vanilla card, and that they will cover if I don’t make a payment or stop making payments! Is this loan from Macau America company legit?
Answer: Fake, scam, bad. No legitimate insurance company will order you to use a specific pre-paid card. You shouldn't be using credit card insurance, anyway, because many of those companies have such strict terms that they will NOT pay the bills if you can't. On the other hand, you could get disability/death mortgage insurance through your mortgage lender and credit card insurance through the credit card company - you at least known they are legitimate companies.
In short, NO, don't use a vanilla visa and give them that information in the vain hope they'll only use it to pay your bills. They'll probably drain the account and never provide additional coverage.
If you're concerned you can't pay the bills, take the couple hundred they demand to be on the card and put it in a savings account instead to cover any bills when you're short on cash.
Question: I put $150 on a vanilla prepaid debit card. I can't activate it online or reach customer service. Is there a number or something else you can advise on getting to activate my card or refund?
Answer: Your challenges with reaching customer service are discussed in the article. If the website isn't working, I have no other advice to share.
Question: I bought a "personal reloadable prepaid card" debit Visa for $500.00. Why can't I register it on the site?
Answer: A personal reloadable prepaid card is not a gift card. These things apparently do require the use of a Social Security Number, especially if you're going to receive payroll payments to it. If you can't register it online, you should be able to register it over the phone. Try the customer service number on the card.
Question: I bought a vanilla gift card a couple of days ago, and my transaction didn't go through because of insufficient funds. The balance reporting site says it was used for a website that I've never been to. Is it possible that visa prints multiple versions of cards with the same info and whoever uses it first wins? Or did the visa card somehow get hacked without me ever using it?
Answer: The card has no funds on it until you load it with money when you buy the gift card. That means that duplicate cards are worthless until you put money on it. What you've described requires the card being hacked or someone constantly checking the balance and using it once loaded.
Question: I bought a Vanilla Visa card. It was as an emergency and I wasn't able to use it. I called them. They told me they put money on hold for a week. A week later, it was zero balance. They stole the money I loaded on that card, and they create fake transactions. The card was not used because I was denied. I submitted FBI report. How else I can get my money back? Single mom too. Hate the scammers and want them to pay for it.
Answer: Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to that or I'd have gotten my money back. A complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and negative reports with the Better Business Bureau will result in more than a report with the FBI.
Question: I just checked my balance and transactions but there was two of the items that I never bought. Please help me out, because almost 250 dollars are gone now. What am I supposed to do?
Answer: The pain and frustration you feel is shared by quite a few others who posted comments. I lost money on a Vanilla Visa card, too. I am not customer service, and the entire basis of this article was to discuss the horrible customer service by the financial services company. You can try calling their phone number or talking to the retailer, but most people had no luck on either end. Don't use them in the future.
Question: Can I send a vanilla card to Ukraine so they pay the phone company over there so the person is able to call the U.S.?
Answer: You can mail it anywhere you want. However, the odds are that the money will be stolen before the card reaches the destination - any destination - are high. Furthermore, they don't have to have a Vanilla Visa card to call someone. You can send a literal phone card or wire money some other way.
Question: I sold a book on eBay and the buyer asked me if I accept to send me $200 more than the cost of the book so I would help him use a Vanilla Visa gift card. After that, I would send him back the 200 he paid extra. Is this ok? Do I have any risks involved?
Answer: Yes. No legitimate business customer says "send me money along with the stuff and I swear I'll give you money back". They pay for the product and you ship the product they paid for. Do not do this.
Question: Do you pay your national 3.95 activation fee to load it? Why am I charge taxes on the vanilla card on the amount of money that I am putting on it?
Answer: Activation fees are normal for cards like this. It is similar to a loan application fee for a mortgage. While you shouldn't be charged sales tax when buying a gift card, some states and retailers charge sales tax on the activation fee amount. That means you're likely to be hit with a 5-10% sales tax on the 3.95 activation fee.
Question: I was asked to buy a vanilla card and deposit 20 bucks on it. So I did and gave them a copy of the card so they could send me the money. Before I got home the money wasn't there. I called the customer service to explain and get a refund, but I didn't get a response. What can I do?
Answer: You were scammed. If you know the person, demand the money back. If you don't know them, never again buy a gift card in the hope someone will send you money - they won't, ever. The scammers were waiting for confirmation you bought and loaded the card and drained it immediately.
Customer service cannot do anything, because they can't know if you intentionally sent money to someone else. They can't reload funds that scammers will just take, either.
Question: I have a person saying they want to give me money that it is a way for them to help people. They are telling me to go get a prepaid visa card and they will help me put the money on it. Is there any money coming out of my pocket?
Answer: Scam, scam, scam. Someone can send you money via Western Union, Paypal or send you a check. They don't need a prepaid Visa card to do so. However, if you put money on the card and send them the card details in the hope they send you money ... they will drain the card. And yes, that money will come out of your pocket along with the activation fees for the card.
Question: I received a VISA gift card from my aunt which I used to make online transactions on the Apple Store. But when I checked, my purchases were still pending, my payment option (the gift card) was invalid, and now I am $41 in debt with the App Store. I also tried checking the Vanilla Prepaid Online Website; it concluded with "An error has occurred". I also attempted to activate the card online, only for it to not work. What do I do at this point?
Answer: If the website for Vanilla visa is down, the card may not be registered - and you can't go through online purchases until that's registered. You even have to wait up to an hour for it to work with online shopping.
If the card has been drained, you have no recourse, the company that issued it won't help.
© 2016 Tamara Wilhite
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on November 22, 2019:
Scam, scam, scam. You don't have to put money on it for him to send you money. But give him those details, and he can drain the $100.
Jane Lucas on November 22, 2019:
My boyfriend asked me to buy a OnaVanilla visa gift card of $5 and activate it with $100 then he will send in $2000 is this true or a scam?
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on March 17, 2019:
Ken Burgess It was several dollars no matter how much money you put on the card.
Ken Burgess from Florida on March 17, 2019:
Not something I am familiar with (store bought 'credit cards'), but out of curiousity I have to ask...
There is a $5.95 cost to getting a $25 card?
Veux on January 08, 2019:
To Commonssense the article was written a year ago and Vanilla Visa has done some updates. I personally had a horrible experience with them and I am letting everyone who will listen know about them and you can read 600+ other people terrible experiences at https://www.consumeraffairs.com/credit_cards/vanil... My son bought me a $100 gift card on 12/24 for Christmas and on 12/25 the card was hacked and the money drained. The funds were transferred to a fake company called spandravy.com in San Jose, CA. Vanilla Visa Fraud Dept is horrible and their MO is to deny claims. I have been reading that most gift card companies don't have botnet defense to keep this kind of stuff from happening. So the best thing is to go old school and give cash.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on January 03, 2019:
I don't understand why you're citing age requirements - I'm an adult and that's clear from my photo.
Your personal experience doesn't invalidate my bad experience or the problems others have mentioned in the comments. I couldn't get the cards registered properly for use. If you can't get it registered online or via a phone call, they are worthless.
Commonssense on January 03, 2019:
This is where you are wrong. I bough a vanilla visa debit card and I could immediately use it after activating it. You need to be 18+ in order for you to activate it and the number on the back has absolutely no problems.