Manufactured Spending

Is Walmart Hard-Coding Registers to Reject Metabank Gift Cards?

Update: As of Sunday, February 22, the issue has been resolved.

I’ve been MIA (aka in Canada) lately and just got back on Tuesday. Yesterday, I headed out to unload a few gift cards and ran into some issues. I was going to save this for my weekly manufactured spending column on Monday, but I’ve gotten a few complaints from readers and Twitter followers that have me worried Walmart might be hard coding their registers to reject Visa gift cards for money order purchases. Yesterday I had the worst time with my $500 mall gift cards, as well as a few $300 Visa gift cards purchased at Staples. Both gift cards are issued by Metabank. 

Walmart Money Order

A total of six mall gift cards and two Staples Visas were rejected at three different Walmart stores when I tried to purchase money orders. Each time, I swiped the card, entered my PIN, noticed abnormally long processing times, followed by an “unable to accept payment type” error code. Each time this happened, I would try the card a second time and it didn’t work (except for one time). A few times I tried a different mall gift card and got the same error. The only transaction that went through involved a Bancorp Visa. 

Oddly, this happened each time I did a split payment – and only the second card was rejected. At one point one of my gift cards triggered an “unable to accept payment type” error, but seconds later before I had a chance to pull out another card, the transaction went through – but required both a PIN and a signature on a printed out receipt. It was bizarre.

During a few of these instances, the cashiers noted system issues. One of them even gave me a twisted explanation about why he thought it was the computers and not the card. Another strange thing about this whole situation? At one point, my card was rejected when I tried to buy money orders. So I walked towards the checkout area, picked up a USB cable, and tried to use that same gift card to pay for it. I got the same “unable to accept payment type” error. Eventually, I did get a few of the cards to work at different stores, but gave up when it became too much of a hassle.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten emails from readers who experienced the same issue. I assumed it was either a temporary issue or a regional one. When I tweeted about these issues yesterday, a few people responded, saying they’d experienced the same. However, Tahsir, who does way more gift card churning than I do, explained that this is a computer glitch that occurs from time to time. Then, @gbplesh DM’s me this morning, saying he’s having trouble unloading his Simon Mall gift cards as well. 

It’s too early to tell whether Walmart is hard coding their registers to reject Metabank Visa gift cards. But I find it odd that so many people around the country are suddenly experiencing this issue at the same time. Only time will tell whether this is a fluke or not. But if you have a stash of Metabank Visa gift cards, I highly recommend you go out and try to unload them ASAP. If the registers get hard coded, you’ll be glad you did this. If not, then your gift card churning just became more efficient.

Have you had any problems using Metabank gift cards to buy money orders at Walmart or elsewhere? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


  1. Ariana — Check the flyertalk threads for yesterday (02/17) for Simon Mall Visa GCs and Buying MOs at WM. You’ll notice a bunch of us had problems. I’m hoping it’s short-lived and just a glitch. Worried, though, because SM GCs are blackhawk, so different than metabank, right? I’m going back to WM tomorrow & will try my luck again.

    • Ariana, Can I use american express gold to buy visa gift cards at staples, I’m kind of new to these stuff, just trying to meet my spend of $5000.

    • Thanks for the tip – I wasn’t aware of the thread, just some reader emails and tweets. Fingers crossed its temporary, but I’m definitely unloading the rest of my cards in case it’s not. The SM cards I have are issued by Metabank, but I’ve heard rumors they may be switching to another issuer.

  2. Had no issues with Simon Visa GCs at WM on Saturday or Monday.

    • Same here, Paco. I had no issues liquidating to MOs on Monday w/Simon Visa GCs, but I did have a ton of problems yesterday, Wed (2/18). I wasn’t able to purchase any WM MOs with any of the SM GCs. Got different error messages — timeouts, no funds on the cards, etc. I tried at 2 different WMs. Didn’t go today. Will try again tomorrow, Friday.

  3. Sorry, meant to write “yesterday Wed (02/17)”.

  4. I did not try to purchase MOs, but I tried to load my Serve via Kate – same result as yours. Tried both Simon VGCs and Staples ones. Surprisingly, I managed to load two of them that were rejected at one WM at a different location. But that’s all. Same message: “Card is not accepted”, and then on the printed receipt it also says “host timeout”.
    I do really hope that it is temporary – like software update or what not. Metabank has legit users as well, so I doubt WM would code specifically against Metabank.
    I’ll give it a few more days and will try again.
    We’ll see.

  5. I’ve been loading BB w/ SM GC for three weeks now in MA and NH (total of 3 diff WMs) , and no issues. However my Simon cards are Blackhawk, not Metabank.
    Incidentally, BB now loads much more smoothly than it did 6 months ago.

  6. Tried to load $800 mb at wm this morning. Had trouble doing to split transactions at the moneycenter. Got one to finally work but gave up on the second transaction and went to a cashier. There, I did two single $200 transactions. The first one went through just fine, the second one took several tries. Got the “unable to respond” error The woman at the moneycenter said that they were having a lot of computer problems right now. This is in North Carolina.

  7. If you don’t mind… a suggestion…
    Plenty of deals have been killed lately. The reasons for that are varied. One thing is for sure that is that more exposure is not helping. While I certainly understand the need to get the word out to your readers regarding this matter, it can be toned down a bit. A headline such as “Problems at WM with debit card transactions”, with a story that cites “different types of debit cards are getting host time out errors at WM for various services and purchases.” Something to that affect. Gets the point across, readers can read between the lines, and it’s not shouting from the mountain top the exact problems with the exact type of cards. Just my two cents.

    • I was able to buy mo with 3 blackhawk cards and one us bank wednesday but had trouble with some others of the same type. I can’t remember what the error message was. Today I was able to buy 2 more and had trouble with 2 cards. I am just trying to buy 5 hundred @ a time to avoid problems.

    • The reason I’m writing about this (and not beating around the bush) is because if this is indeed Walmart’s attempt at hard-coding registers, I want to give my readers a heads up so they don’t end up with thousands of dollars in gift cards they can’t liquidate. That being said, I agree – exposure does kill deals, which is why I’m reconsidering my blog’s approach to writing about ms.

  8. Headline seems overly alarmist. If it’s an attempt at hard coding, it seems a very poor one. For example, the problem seems to crop up with split tender payments, insofar as the 2nd payment errors out. If they were hard coding, why would they not prevent the 1st payment from going through?

    Additionally, you reported that you got the same error when attempting to purchase a USB cable. It seems unlikely that WM would ban the use of gift cards for the purchase of merchandise.

    We saw with the limitations placed on OV VGCs that if WM wants to hard code their registers to not accept something, they know how to do it. The reports here are so spotty that it almost certainly has to be some sort of computer problem.

    All that said, your reporting is appreciated — however, the headline seems more designed to generate clicks than anything else.

    • Not sure what other headline would have conveyed it better. It’s simply a question – the same one I had when this started happening. I went back today and now the first payment isn’t working either. As for the USB cable purchase – it wouldn’t surprise me at all if WM attempted to hard code their registers for MO purchases and it lead to issues with non-MO purchases. WM isn’t exactly known for efficiency or competence. In any case, let’s hope this is just a computer issue that gets resolved soon.

  9. I’m in central NJ and both Simon GC and Meta aren’t working at 3 different walmarts in my area. 🙁 (2/19)

  10. I had tons of difficulties yesterday on my Staples Metabank cards, eventually 9/10 worked but that 10th one didn’t work at Kate or with a human. And I just ordered a ton of $300 cards 🙁

  11. This Walmart hard coding unfortunately is true. Tried Simon gift card in Long Island , NY at the Kate and didn’t work. Went to the cashier and interestingly on the 3rd try to screen showed approved but the cashier didn’t get the receipt but another error code. I got email that $500 loaded but in the next 30 seconds when I logged into serve it showed Walmart reversal loading .

    So it is going through as usual but is been reversed . I will try some in Boston and see..

  12. First of all, thank you, Ariana, for this post.

    All these “more exposure is killing the deals” people should imagine themselves being in the dark. It’s fine when you are in the know, but not quite fair to try preventing other people from learning. And if (as the argument goes) banks and credit card companies really want to learn anything that’s going on currently in MS community – they wouldn’t be learning from random blog titles. What would prevent them from visiting FT, Saverocity, Reddit or even attending one of the conferences? Maybe that’s exactly what they are doing. So – I doubt it’s bloggers like Ariana who “kill it”. I firmly believe it’s irresponsible users who “kill the deals”.

    Once again – thanks you for this post (even though I follow FT conversation regarding this issue) – I am grateful you are keeping your readers informed. The encouraging news with this issue (if there is ever encouraging news) that some of legit debit cards also experience issues, while some of VCGs work on 2nd or 3rd swipe. The time will tell. But thank you for bringing this to your readers’ attention!

  13. Off loaded 3 Simon mall Metabank gift cards today with no issues at WM.

  14. Just tried Walmart in southern Maryland and it succeeded. However per a Frequent Miler recommendation, I changed the PIN on them 1st. I didn’t have a 3rd one to test drive w/Of a PIN change. But at least it worked and I changed the PIN on the cards while in the store.

  15. Tried unloading the Simon GCs today at the same Walmart in NY and it worked. No success at Kate but 100% success over the register.

  16. Ariana, you mentioned that the Bancorp Visa worked. Is that the way to go?

  17. They are 100% hardcoded. They asked me straight up if it was a gift card and I can’t lie so I said yes and she canx my whole transaction. So if you can lie with a straight face then go for it. But they know when it rejects it’s a giftcard.

  18. What’s 100% hardcoded, your honesty? LOL. Seriously though, nice to hear people are still ethical nowadays.

    • Meaning if people were thinking if the system was hardcoded then they would be 100% right. the girl automatically knew that if the transaction was spotty it would mean that I was using a gift card. Looks like we need to find a new MSing method. Walmart and all of its benefits (from BB to MO’s) are sadly becoming scarce.

  19. I unloaded 7 Simon GC’s on 2/20 in two different WM in the bay area for a mix of MO and Serve Load with no problems

  20. Unable to load Metabank @ WM on Monday or Tuesday using Kate in NJ. 1st time this happened. Will try again today. Was able to use same cards to buy MO @ USPS. What was weird is the postal teller asked to see my card w/ the large “GIFT CARD” printed on the front. Asked my name and said I needed to sign the card. Ok, no problem and he accepted and printed the MO.

Leave a Comment