The Vanilla Visa Card Scam

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


The Vanilla Visa gift card is a scam with many different components. It is sold as a gift card, though many of these Vanilla cards are reloadable debit cards as well. What are the problems with this prepaid gift card?

The Vanilla Visa Card’s Problems

When you buy these cards and activate them at the register, you can’t immediately use them online. You have to wait at least 24 hours before you can register them online, which must be done before you can use them for online purchases with any other site. Even if the website sees the purchased amount for the activated gift card on the website, you still cannot register it and use it online at that time.

For the first full day, any attempt to register it by entering in my zip code and trying to proceed was denied. This wasn’t 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. This is another reason why I called customer service as soon as I was able to find a phone number for their customer service department – and the difficulty of getting a good phone number to reach Vanilla Visa support (only shown after multiple failed attempts to associate a zip code with it) is a strike against this Visa gift card.

I was never able to register my gift cards online through Vanilla’s website and had to call the Vanilla Visa phone number at 1-800-571-1376 to get a zip code associated with it. And 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.

The Vanilla Visa website is insecure. If the site asks you for personally identifiable information, DO NOT give it.
The Vanilla Visa website is insecure. If the site asks you for personally identifiable information, DO NOT give it. | Source

Other Problems with Vanilla Visa

The card’s instructions say vendors may put a 24 hour hold on money, but there is no such warning in the instructions or the vendor website stating there is a card registration itself. In fact, the website’s “important things to know” says you can use the Vanilla Visa card immediately after purchase. Not true online, though I don’t know if this is true in an in person transaction, though given the poor customer service and general reputation, I doubt it.

If the Vanilla Visa gift card is used fraudulently, Vanilla Visa has a bad reputation for not helping people even after you provide a lot of information. There are also reports that they demand copies of driver’s license pictures and other information that puts the victim at risk for identity theft. And you don’t want to put this information into their site since it is insecure.

The card states in 2016 only to be used in the United States, but they previously sold them internationally without this warning. The cards could no longer be used internationally after mid-2012. This information is clearly stated on their customer service recordings and in small text on the gift card packaging.

After buying two separate Vanilla Visa gift cards at the same time from the same store and a dozen attempts, I was never able to get a zip code associated with them to 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.

Comparison to American Express Gift Card

The American Express gift card I purchased after giving up on the Vanilla Visa had the same 5.95 fee to activate as the Vanilla Visa gift card for a $25 balance.

It 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 American Express gift card I bought the same day I bought it, whereas after three days of trying to use Vanilla Visa cards, I gave up and bought the American Express.

You can use any zip code, including your home zip code, for the purchase without calling a phone number or giving away personal information.


Research your Visa gift card options before you buy, because some of them are usable online or in person within hours of purchase - and don't buy a Vanilla Visa gift card.


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