Is Target Hard-Coding Registers to Reject PIN-Enabled Gift Cards?

Unfortunately, it appears that way. I’m in Roseville, CA for the day and thought I’d take the opportunity to churn a few gift cards. This has been an ms-friendly town – one of the deciding factors in my plan to move here later this year (along with the fact that my sister lives here). 

Target store Prepaid REDcard

I have both Vanilla Visa gift cards as well as GiftCardMall Visas purchased from Safeway. At the first Target store, I received a “card type not accepted” message when using a Vanilla Visa to load a Target PrepaidRED (aka Redbird) card. I figured the card might be defective in some way, so I tried another gift card that still didn’t work. Finally, I used my Paypal Business Debit card and that went through fine. When the first card didn’t go through, the cashier remarked, “Are you paying with a prepaid card? Because our registers are set up to reject those.”

I drove to another Target store in town and had the same experience when trying to load two different Redbirds. I even tried to load one with a GiftCardMall Visa and it was also rejected. Again, the cashier remarked that they don’t accept “prepaid” cards and that’s why the transaction kept getting rejected. I’ve never had this experience at a Target store before, except when I’ve accidentally selected the “credit” option during the payment process. That’s definitely not what happened here.

Hopefully, this is just a regional thing but if you have a stash of gift cards to unload via Redbird, I highly suggest you unload them ASAP in case the Target stores in your region are affected. The death of Redbird is inevitable, but it’s always best to minimize the damage by not buying more than you can unload in a day – or via normal household spending if you get stuck with them. 

A few folks on Twitter have informed me that their local Target stores have not been affected. They’ve successfully loaded their Redbird cards with PIN-enabled Visa gift cards in the past day without problems.

I’m heading home tomorrow and will stop by a few Target stores on the way to see if their registers are hard-coded as well. Hopefully that is not the case. My stash of gift cards totals just $2,500 and I do have alternative options for unloading them…though I did strike out at a Neighborhood Walmart down the street from the second Target store when trying to purchase a money order with a GCM Visa gift card. I’ll try another store later today, but I’m on kind of a bad luck streak when it comes to manufactured spending today, so maybe I’ll just give it a rest for now.

Have you encountered any hard-coded registers while trying to load a Redbird card at Target?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I loaded in natomas and Elk Grove yesterday with no issues. was not able to load in a store in Sacramento. I was able to load this morning in the east bay. I used OV’s purchased from cvs. Seems to be hit or miss at this point.

  2. How about normal paypal debit card (not business debit card). Do they still work?

  3. No issues at the west sac target (by nugget) using vanilla yesterday afternoon. Yesterday evening was smooth sailing as well at the woodland target, all vanilla.

    Will report back after today and tomorrow’s loads.

  4. I’m just confused about the lack consistency…for me, 3/4 OVs worked fine, but not the 4th? Is it certain card number sequences that get rejected?

    TGT seems to roll out policies and updates by region or district, so the Roseville area is probably dead. I’m just hoping it stays alive at my TGTs for November loads…

  5. 10/1/15 At Target I loaded OVs no problem, loaded multiple VGCs from Simon Mall, but 2 would not go through. I was able to buy MO at Walmart with those two. Cashier at Target said she had no idea why some would not work.

  6. Why is the death of RB inevitable? Target gets a lot of foot traffic and as long as Amex is reimbursing Target fees for debit transactions, Target should be happy. I hadn’t been to a TGT store in 5+ years until RB came along and since then have made more than $2,000 of actual purchases….that’s more than $650 in gross profits for TGT. So for people like me, TGT does not even need Amex to reimburse for the cost of debit loads, which is under 50 cents per transaction.

    • Every deal ends eventually, but Target is aware of how the card is used and already put an end to credit card loads. Their cashiers have already been instructed not to accept gift cards and I’m sure it’s a matter of time before all cash registers are hard coded.

  7. You made this post as I was on my way to Target to load my Redcard. I went to the Target I normally go to in Delaware and didn’t have any problems loading it with Vanilla debit cards. Actually, I’ve never had any cashiers tell me I can’t load with a prepaid debit card. Anyway, just as a side note, I did notice a sign posted in Target saying: “REDcard Payment Notification: We are currently updating our system and temporarily some debit cards can’t be used to make a payment on a REDcard credit account. During this time please call 800-316-3006 to make a payment on your account with your debit card.” Although this seems to apply to Redcard credit accounts (not prepaid), I’m wondering if this is referring to changes being made to all the Target systems. We’ll see what happens.

  8. Roseville store is my go to store every week (Madison is way closer but is dead to me) and just last week I went there and all good with OVs. About 3 weeks ago I had the same problem of ‘card type not accepted’, tried 3 OVs all the same outcome. Tested one of them with a regular purchase and it worked so I went back to CS desk and voila loaded just fine. I noticed that I waited until I saw the screen say ‘please slide card’ with the load amount before I actually slid the OV, something I didn’t do just prior. Who knows. I’ll go in tomorrow to confirm.

  9. I was unable to load tonight at wal-mart with the notification “alt form of payment required”. Any other reports of this?

    • This happens sometimes when the card issuer rejects the load and not WM. I had card like this and not matter what it wouldn’t work so I just spent it down. Just unloaded $5k at Target tonight with OV and no issues.

  10. “I’ve never had this experience at a Target store before, except when I’ve accidentally selected the “credit” option during the payment process.”

    The cashier has an option to select the payment type also during loading, it’s a bunch of options on a vertical line where K6=debit. If the cashier selected credit or some other payment type, it will prob give you the same error because the register is not able to validate your debit type of payment (pin-usable prepaid/gift, acting as debit) against the selection that the cashier made prior to you swiping the prepaid/gift card.

    As to the idea of regional hard-coding by Target to reject prepaid cards, I suppose anything can happen but it doesn’t make much sense to me. For once it would be more work to program and implement this software wise, plus what’s the logic in coding the registers to reject prepaid cards in some cities but not other cities, of the same state even?

    I follow the Flyertalk Redbird thread daily (and some other ones) and I haven’t seen any credible reports indicating any hard coding. There’s regularly reports of errors when loading but they usually end up being issues with the gift card or in fewer cases Redbird temp network issues and sometimes cashier-driven.

    About Redbird’s death being inevitable, I’ve regularly read those predictions on blogs since I started to MS with Redbird, which was late last year, I guess the predictions were primarily of out “this is too good to last” notion. Sure it could die (in the MS realm anything could die any day) but it could also remain in the current–or a similar–state for years, as have its sibling, Serve and Bluebird.

    • I don’t think it was the cashier, since I was given the option to choose the payment type and selected debit. They did hard code their registers to reject credit cards, so I don’t think it would be too much trouble to do the same thing for gift cards. Serve and Bluebird have died in some ways (and in certain regions). Bluebird load kiosks have been removed from Walmart stores in my area and cashiers inspect cards before they’re swiped.

      • I missed the part earlier about you having been given the option to select the payment type, that makes it unlikely that the cashier selected it midway through the Redbird steps. However, that doesn’t rule out the cashier having selected the wrong type of card to load from the getgo (they have to select prepaid REDcard before we proceed with our steps), or some other temp glitch or issue.

        I don’t think it would be hard for Target to hard code its registers, I was merely stating that it wouldn’t make sense (to me anyhow) to do so only with a few stores in one region (this part would be more work to implement as opposed to state-wide or nation-wide, it would mean maintaining diff versions of their software), or any such small/incremental roll-out of it. For instance when they hard coded the registers to reject credit cards it was nation-wide, all on May 6th.

        As to Bluebird and Serving having died, well then we get into Bill Clinton territory…it depends on what you mean by died lol. To me Redbird dying doesn’t mean some stores don’t let you swipe/load (that has been the case for most of Redbird’s life), but rather Target hard coding all its registers to reject prepaid/gift cards, which would make Redbird useless to us.

        In any case, time will tell.

        • Good point about all the registers being updated on the same day. With pretty much every other ms source going bust, I expect the two birds are next. Someone said something about eliminating bill pay or requiring cash-only loads. It might be something along those lines, which is why I think in general it’s a good idea not to stockpile more gift cards than you can reasonably unload on short notice.

  11. My local Target has stopped loading pre-paid gift cards to my Redbird by “policy”. Actually I had just successfully loaded $2500 when another cashier told my cashier that Target would not accept gift cards, and my cashier had to reverse the loads. I then loaded the gift cards to my AMEX Bluebird account at Walmart. As a side note, yesterday the cashier at Walmart would not accept my gift cards because they don’t have my name on them. I did load them at another Walmart, but it seems to me this practice is going to end sometime.

    • What city? Location, location, location, when it comes to MS data points.

      Store policy not allowing or limiting Redbird loading started in NYC (Brooklyn) in early Feb, when we were loading with credit cards directly, and since has spread to several stores across the country, mostly in big cities.

      For people who are not sure if it is a store policy, if you go there 3-4 times and at diff shifts also and get the same unified message about them not letting you swipe to load, then it is likely a store policy and not a cashier/supervisor making an educated guess.

      • In west LA, two of the three TGTs stopped about a month ago. I haven’t gone there since and now go to the third one, which is actually close than the other two. The one where I go to now had stopped six months ago but then again started allowing loads.

        • I finished up my last loads at TGT in West LA last week with no problems. I was going to run by there today for my October cycle. Fingers crossed they’re still good!

        • Thanks for sharing Jediwho. My Target in Norwalk CA has stopped accepting giftcard debit loads as of 3 months ago. Can you share the location of Target West LA that still accepts them? Also, can folks in SoCal area share location of Targets that still accept debit loads if possible. So what’s the best alternative to RedCard? I think it’s just a matter of time before it completely dies.

    • I’ve experienced the same thing at one local Target store. Employee enforcement isn’t so bad, since you can always try again when someone less experienced is working the register. But when the registers are hard coded, it’s bad news all around.

  12. I have to agree with NoonRadar. When both TGT and Amex launched RB, they had a very good idea of possible MS, the pros and cons. Amex has been doing Prepaid for a long time and they are the second largest if not the largest already prepaid card issuer. If the cost outweighs the benefits (for someone like me, both TGT and Amex benefits), they will continue. My thinking is that each prepaid load costs less than 50 cents to Amex/TGT.

    Amex can definitely make changes, like charge us for bill pay or even loads, like grocery stores do for MO.

  13. I was running into hard-coded, anti-gift card registers in metro Sacramento in May and June of this year. After striking out at several Sacto-area (and also metro Atlanta) Target stores, I gave up and ditched the Redbird for the old Bluebird in June. I loathe Walmart, but I haven’t had any problems loading the Bluebird anywhere.

  14. I was turned down with the “you can’t use 3rd party cards or prepaid” by a manager at the natomas store yesterday, first time. I had to deal with a manager because the line was long and she came over to help, the cashier had to tell her how to do the load, and that’s where the trouble started. I guess she was reading the screen and then I got the ‘denied’, maybe i’ll try another time. No problems at the target on Sunrise or Madison tho. or broadway, but that’s been a minute. i’ll try woodland tomorrow as I have 6k in OVC and ST2UP2C cards.

    • Unfortunately Woodland may be a no-go. I went there a few weeks ago and used a Paypal debit card to load Redbird. The cashier said it was ok but then proceeded to explain to the others how they shouldn’t accept gift cards as payment.

  15. Interesting experience at woodland yesterday, this is my home base and Ive never had an issue. I went earlier in the morning and a manager looking lady helped me out stating that I can only do 1 load per day. If I wanted to do more she would have to fill our some BS irs form. First time running into this at woodland, I usually load with the younger gal’s and have no issue, this may be a one off. So I just did $500 on mine and the same on my wifes with no issue.

    Loaded at Sacramento (alta arden) today with some issue. Cashier asked to see the card, I showed her the vanilla card where it said debit. she took some convincing but I was able to get it done. Hard to pull the switch card at target as they can see pretty easily, I miss the high counters at wally.

    If this becomes more difficult I will just go back to BB loading with SMGC.

    • That is odd. I was there a few weeks ago and one of the cashiers told all her colleagues to start checking the cards people are using. I’ve pretty much crossed that place off my list ever since.

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