Manufactured Spending

My Experience Using Gift Cards to Pay Bills with Evolve Money

Update: Thanks to reader Paul for the heads up. Evolve has notified users via Twitter that the issue with master card gift cards has been resolved.

Yesterday I wrote about getting snubbed at Walmart and Target while trying to use gift cards to reload a prepaid card and buy a money order. I mentioned using Evolve Money to unload some of my Visa gift cards and thought I’d elaborate on how that works.

Evolve is a free bill pay service that allows users to pay participating merchants with a debit card or a “cash” option. When you choose cash, you’re given the option to pay with Evolve Pay Bucks or ReloadIT cards.

What makes this service appealing is the fact that you can use your Visa gift cards to pay your bill. If you think this is shady behavior that is bound to get shut down – an Evolve rep on Flyertalk has made the following statement on the forum: “We are committed to providing our customers the ability to pay their bills with gift cards.”

Before giving it a try myself, I’d read about how their bill pay network was limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could pay pretty much all of my bills with the service: My student loans (Sallie Mae), PG&E, cellphone and internet (AT&T, Comcast). What’s more, most payments are processed within 2 days and some are processed the same day for an extra charge of $1.50. I made a payment to Sallie Mae on Friday and received confirmation on Saturday morning that the payment had been processed. That’s faster than going through Bluebird or even paying through Sallie Mae’s site directly, and I didn’t even have to pick the expedited payment option.

If you’re wondering how this works, it’s simple:

1. Sign up by providing some basic information about yourself: Email address, mobile phone number, and zip code.

2. Once you’re signed in, simply click on “add new bill” on your dashboard and search for your service provider.

Evolve Money Bill Pay Search

3. When you click on your service provider, you’ll be asked to enter more detailed information than you provided at registration. This includes your name, account number and last 4 digits of your SSN.

Evolve Money Bill Pay

In the case of Sallie Mae, you’ll be offered a variety of addresses to send your payment to. Make sure you pick the right one or your payment may not be processed. You can find the correct billing address by logging into your account and pulling up one of your billing statements.

4. Next, you provide your gift card payment information. You don’t need to register your gift card prior to using it, so simply provide your mailing address under “billing address” and you’re all set.

Evolve Debit Card

Potential Issues

1. You can’t use American Express gift cards with Evolve. These are processed as credit transactions and Evolve currently only allows debit, Evolve Pay Bucks, and ReloadIT cards as payment.

2. When a bill is overpaid, the excess amount is applied as a credit to your Evolve account and you’ll have to use it to pay another bill. Any plans to overpay a bill and ask your provider to send a refund check are not going to work.

3. There seems to be an issue primarily with using Mastercard gift cards issued by US Bank. I used Visa gift cards obtained through GiftCardMall and at least one payment has been processed without issues. [Update: Evolve has resoled this issue and Mastercard gift card payments should now be going through smoothly]

4. According to this Flyertalk page, if the payment fails, you may end up with a pre-authorized charge on your card that could take up to 10 days to fall off.

5. You may need to wait at least 5 minutes to pay the same bill twice. This is important to note if you plan on splitting large payments (i.e. mortgage) across different gift cards.

6. If you’re making a mortgage payment, your bank may count payments via Evolve towards the principal and still require a payment.

Despite some of the reported issues, I would prefer using this for legitimate bill pay. Of course, I still have to go to Walmart to unload some of those Visa gift cards via Bluebird. Evolve just makes it easy for me to pay my bills in one place while allowing me to stay in the manufactured spending game.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to use promo code Save5april to save $5 on your next bill payment. The code expires today at 11:59 PM (PT).

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  1. Will try this method to unload the $200 Visa GC I bought from Officemax using my Ink Card. I was able to unload these GC at my local grocery store to buy a money order but the small amount makes them better suited for home use. I had to set up a PIN online for the money order but i am guessing I don’t need to do that if I use them on Evolve?

  2. All we are missing is circles and arrows…

  3. What do I do with my American Express gift cards that I have. Besides spending them?

  4. Signed up and paid a utility bill w/ One Vanilla card. Did a store search on the Evolve site and noticed Acme sells Reloadit packs. Can you buy Reloadit w/ Amex CC? 2X for grocery stores would be real nice,

  5. If you’re making a payment to your mortgage, becareful! A lot of providers will apply the payment to your principal and not your current payment.

    • PointChaser

      Thanks for the tip, William. So far I’ve read about issues with back-to-back payments posting on time, but this is good to know.

      • The payment should go to the monthly payment first (interest plus principle). If you’re making extra payment, it will be applied to the principles. It’s true for sure for Wells Fargo and Citi. I would bet other banks work the same way.

  6. Has anyone tried Evolve using the Paypal Mastercard Debit card? That’s 1% back as long as it’s not coded as a DEBIT charge…

    • PayPal Business Debit MasterCard works with Evolve and earns the 1%.

      • That’s a good move. So if I link my CC to my paypal as backup method and then make payments with paypal debit card I am getting all the points without the gift card fee, plus 1 % back! This is actually a really good idea!

        • PointChaser

          I like that idea too. It doesn’t have the shadiness factor of using a credit card when you’re not supposed to.

          • Unfortunately, the only credit cards you can use as backup for PayPal debit card purchases are the PayPal and eBay Mastercards, even though you can have any credit card as backup for normal PayPal purchases.

          • My paypal debit card is rejected with an error stating “not a debit card” Anyone else experiencing this?

          • That’s very odd. That’s never happened to me and in fact, Evolve has stated that they are “committed” to letting people use even gift cards for payments.

          • Check out the flyertalk thread on evolve and you will see much discussion of this new error. apparently evolve just updated their system to restrict certain card prefixes and classify them as credit cards. fwiw squarecash also rejects my paypal card.

        • Except that you can only use a bank account as a backup to a paypal debit.

  7. what is their business model? If they are a free service, are they just making money on the float / money in the accounts? Is there a big / legitmate company behind them? Or will we wake up 1 day and the top guys absconded with our money?

  8. I tried using a Simon giftcard/VISA debit card from for a payment, but it throws out this error:
    “Card entered is not supported for Evolve payment”.
    Has anyone encountered and then found a solution for the Simon VISA deebit giftcard issue?

  9. Two of my bills failed – one to a utility company and one to pay principal on my mortgage. Evolve sent me a credit and now my balance is $100. How do I use that credit balance? I’m not seeing a way to use that $100 to send to my mortgage company.

    • Did you figure this out? I’m wondering if you can use the failed payment credit towards a mortgage payment you already paid $999 on.

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