The Vanilla Visa Card Scam

Updated on April 17, 2020
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and 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 zipcode 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 zipcode 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 zipcode 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 zipcode, 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.

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

  • 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?

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

© 2016 Tamara Wilhite


Submit a Comment
  • tamarawilhite profile imageAUTHOR

    Tamara Wilhite 

    6 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

    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.

  • profile image

    Jane Lucas 

    6 months ago

    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?

  • tamarawilhite profile imageAUTHOR

    Tamara Wilhite 

    14 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

    Ken Burgess It was several dollars no matter how much money you put on the card.

  • Ken Burgess profile image

    Ken Burgess 

    14 months ago from Florida

    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?

  • profile image


    16 months ago

    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 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 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.

  • tamarawilhite profile imageAUTHOR

    Tamara Wilhite 

    17 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

    Dear Commonssense,

    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.

  • profile image


    17 months ago

    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.


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