By Julian, author of Devil’s Advocate…
Not since the Apollo moon missions has there been a more fragile piece of technology than the Walmart MoneyCenter Express ATM kiosk.
The WME was designed to be a powerful device with the flexibility to handle many financial tasks with ease. Unfortunately, the blueprints were then handed to a team of monkeys who preferred to spend their time jumping up and down and screeching at their programming screens instead of building a properly working piece of equipment.
That being said, there’s a fundamental rule to using the MoneyCenter Express. This vital rule has been well covered on Flyertalk but not anywhere near enough on the mainstream blogs. The reason I know this is because when I go to Walmart to use the WME, about 50% of the time I find it frozen and unusable because the person who tried to use it before me didn’t know or understand this rule.
So yes, there’s a bit of a selfish angle to today’s post. Not only will it help everyone if we can disseminate this information to more people, but it will also help me personally if it means the machine is working when I want to actually use it.
The $1,999.99 Rule — It’s a Commandment!
First, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Walmart MoneyCenter Express or why points and miles enthusiasts care about it, you should check out this excellent guide written by our very own Shawn Coomer. Shawn does a great job explaining how to use the WME to load Bluebird and Serve with PIN-enabled gift cards and without having to deal with a Walmart cashier.
So what’s the rule to keeping the machine working? It’s very simple, and it’s this…
You cannot load more than $1,999.99 within 10 minutes
without causing the machine to lock up.
That’s $1,999.99 total. Not $1,999.99 per load. Not $1,999.99 per card. Not even $1,999.99 per person. It’s $1,999.99 per 10 minutes. Period.
Right now some of you are saying, “Wait, I thought the load limits for Bluebird and Serve are $2,500 in one day and $5,000 per month.” That is correct. But those are the card load limits. There is an additional limit built into the actual Walmart ATM kiosk. For the machine itself, the load limit is $1,999.99 per 10 minutes. It’s also a rolling 10 minutes, meaning the machine is always monitoring the previous 10 minutes from whatever time it happens to be at that particular moment.
It’s not just about me?
The WME has no idea if 1 person alone or 10 people in a row are loading their Bluebird and Serve cards. All it cares about is time.
So if the person in line in front of you took 7 minutes to load $1,900 onto their Bluebird card, and then you step up to the machine and try to immediately load a $200 gift card onto your Serve, you’ll crash the machine. The previous person’s $1,900 plus your $200 went over the $1,999.99 limit in less than 10 minutes.
This means you have to be aware of what happened on the machine in the 10 minutes before you got to it.
How do you do that? Well, if you walk into Walmart and there’s a person already using the WME, it’s pretty easy to determine (from a respectable distance) whether they’re loading Bluebird and/or Serve. (Hopefully they also read this post and know the load limits themselves.) Just pull out your phone and start a timer so you can make sure you don’t overload when they’re done.
What if no one using the kiosk? I know, I know… when you see a working WME and no one using it, it feels like Christmas morning! But it comes down to simply being patient and not immediately starting to load. Feel free to stand at the machine and explore some of the functions so that someone doesn’t start using it ahead of you. But don’t instantly start loading gift cards.
Also, note that ATM withdrawals do not count against this limit. So if you needed to take cash out of your regular bank account, this is a perfect time to do it. Take your time and you’ll be able to burn 4-5 minutes on that first ATM transaction before you even start loading.
Some other tricks to slow down loads.
Once you’re underway, you’ll want to time your loads so you don’t break the limit yourself. One good method is to start by loading your lowest denomination gift card first and then alternate lower ones with higher ones. For example, if you’ve got a mix of $100, $200, and $500 cards, don’t load all the $500’s at once. Start with a $100, then load a $500, then load another $100, then a $500, then a $200 and so on. That way you’re keeping yourself under the overall limit.
Also, if an actual Walmart customer appears who just wants to use the machine to withdraw money, stop loading and let them do it. As previously mentioned, ATM withdrawals don’t count against the limit, so not only are you being nice by letting someone get their business done, you’re also saving the machine from locking up.
Finally, note that loads made with an actual Walmart cashier also do not count towards the $1,999.99 limit. It’s a machine-only limit. So if you’ve loaded $1,900 on the kiosk and it’s only been 7-8 minutes, you can go find a cashier to do a load. That will take enough time so that when you come back, you’ll be beyond 10 minutes and able to load more.
Why is there an “extra” limit anyway?
This $1,999.99 limit is known as a “velocity limit” and it’s designed by Walmart in an attempt to prevent fraud. If the screen says “Approval Needed” or “For your protection an associate will help you complete this transaction” that means the velocity limit was exceeded and the machine will not proceed until a manager comes over and unlocks it via a code.
In theory, the idea is when someone is loading a large amount of money in a short amount of time, Walmart wants a manager to take a look and make sure there’s nothing suspicious or illegal underway.
In practice, what actually happens is the machine stops working and the manager simply ignores it since resetting these machines 20 times a day is pretty much the bane of their existence (if you don’t include shoplifters, lazy cashiers, unstocked shelves, customers who want to know why the lawn mower now costs $19.29 when last week it only cost $18.79, the guy in the parking lot who seems to be operating an unlicensed gun store out of his trunk, and just generally being a manager at Walmart).
OK, so maybe it isn’t the bane of their existence, but they’ll often ignore a locked WME, thereby rendering the machine unusable for hours or even days. If you can get them to come over and type in their code, you’ll be off and running again, but it’s a whole lot easier to just not hit the limit in the first place, right?
Finally, keep in mind that some individual Walmarts appear to have set their machines to a velocity limit even more restrictive than the standard $1,999.99. If you’re certain that you’re under the limit and the machine keeps requiring a manager’s approval, then your machine limit may be set lower. You’ll just have to be extra slow and hyper aware of how much you’re loading until you can determine your machine’s specific limit.
This is NOT a secret. Tell everyone!
It helps all of us if everyone knows these limits, so spread the word. If you’re at a Walmart MoneyCenter Express and someone comes up who doesn’t know the limits, tell them. Don’t be shy, and don’t let them simply “try it.” They won’t be helping you or themselves when the machine stops working. If they don’t believe you, show them this post. Bookmark it so you have it on your phone.
Remember, friends don’t let friends exceed the velocity limit. Especially if you’re in L.A., in which case I promise I’ll be your friend forever if you just stop crashing my machine, okay?
Other Recent Posts From The “Bet You Didn’t Know” Series:
Updates on Club Carlson Visa, Hyatt Diamond, and more
A $50 credit on the Virgin America card using the shopping cart trick
Two tricks for chasing Hyatt Diamond status (and 1 that won’t work)
Find all the “Bet You Didn’t Know” posts here.
[…] than nearly anyone thought it would. It’s not always easy to find an agreeable cashier or a working Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosk, but it can be […]
Thank you for these posts. I am new to this idea and have been reading and reading and reading! There are probably new-“newbies” that start each week that appreciate all your help, I know I do! Commenters; Don’t hate the newbies, we are trying to learn. Thanks again!
[…] the entire endeavor simply loops back upon itself ad infinitum. Frankly, I’d almost prefer to battle the Walmart MoneyCenter Express than attempt to transfer Avios back and […]
I’ll have to swing through and try it some other day.
I used a WME recently loading with vanillas $40 per transaction; at about the 14th load it started getting glitchy and the screen started flickering between dark with one sentence at the top to normal appearance. It looked like it was frying out so I didn’t load anymore. Didn’t seem to lock it but total transaction was under your velocity limit.
Martinez Walmart has been programmed to allow $1000 per load per day……..try to load the 3rd 500 and it freezes and you’ll have to get the manager to come unlock it……..he will ONCE………then tells you to go use a cashier…….
[…] How to NOT Break the Walmart MoneyCenter Express […]
I’m a newbie and read all the forums. I successfully went to Simon Mall and got $2,000 in VGC’s today. I went to Walmart with my Serve card but when I tried to load it didn’t work. I then tried to go to the register and load. I had my real debit card ready if they asked to see it. But they told me I can’t load with debit card. Only cash.
I thought this had to be wrong so I called the # on back of the card and they confirmed it’s only cash at Walmart. I only got my Serve card a few weeks ago. Is this something on newer Serve cards?
Any advice is appreciated. Should I cancel this and order Redbird?
1. How do you get the managers? The people at MoneyCenter are generally extremely rude and impatient…asking for a manager to come fix KATE will most likely not work…any ideas? Do they look different?
2. How to email a specific Walmart location or report a broken Kate online? Any links? I searched for hours and can’t find anything more than a phone number. And with phone numbers I’m pretty sure I’ll just get laughed at by one of the associates there.
[…] How to NOT Break the Walmart MoneyCenter Express […]
1 million dollar ? Where are the active Kates? Stressing Active and physically in house.
Just wanted to say thanks for the article. I’m a recent convert from the Redbird to Serve and I have two WM’s with fully functioning KATE’s within a 10 min drive of me. Done a few loads so far without incident from the US Bank gift cards I buy at Kroger. The $1,999 / 10 min commandment is now stuck in my brain and I will obey 🙂
[…] Bet You Didn’t Know: How to NOT Break the Walmart MoneyCenter Express – What you need to know about staying within the limits to avoid breaking the Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosk. Follow these rules and make life easier for both you and the next person who comes along. […]
My nearest Kate machines are about an hour west or east of my residence, and as I had long read these countless ft horror stories about unreliable kate service, I avoided them. That was before I got tired of waiting in the long, long lines at WMT money centers, dealing with constant Walmart money center glitches in handling the bluebird loads — and the embarrassments of having an attendant needing to take ten minutes and more to do my reloads…. (and never again will I attempt to load bluebird with a cashier….)
So earlier this year, I got into the habit of planning trips to the Kates I could find at 24 hour Walmarts on the way to the airport…. Not once have I encountered one “down.” (I did have problems twice if I tried to use just before midnight — apparently the systems are re-set at midnight, or thereabouts. But within half hour, each time, they had ’em working)
I’ve had even better luck with a Kiosk at a WMT supercenter in Staunton — which I found via the locator tool. Funny thing, I’d called the Walmart money center, and the clueless human beings there didn’t know they even had the machine. Yet there it was, right in front of the money center. (and every time I’ve gone there since, it’s been working — though oddly there, I’ve yet to see anybody else use it)
So much easier than dealing with the long lines, the questions, during busy times. I, for one, hope to see more of them.
[…] Bet You Didn’t Know: How to NOT Break the Walmart MoneyCenter Express […]
Important fact that I think really should be addressed. That is not a monkey…
I forgot to add the. Checkmate so I can get emails on this. Lol
Why do u use the bluebird if you cannot use a CC to earn mile points?
$1.999.99 it’s not a commandment. Last year tried to load 11 cards by $200 each that for sure is taking more than 10 minutes.Load was successful. But very often in some location machine has been locked after $600, and $1000 that for sure is taking less then 10 minutes.
You’ve got it reversed.
Great article as always, Mr Devil’s attorney! I must say though, I’m disappointed about the fact that the monkey on the article is merely sitting there and not jumping up and down. Have you not seen the movie Madagascar?
I don’t MS at Walmart (Redbird only for now) but it is great to know in case things change with Redbird.
I am curious about the percentage of people that:
1) Have a Walmart with KATE nearby.
2) Have a Walmart with a mostly working KATE nearby.
I have 5 WMs within 20 miles. Closest one to my house has always required a 9 digit pin. This is a bug discussed on FT. Machine has been rebooted but problem still exists after 3 years. Never been able to load anything there.
Fortunately another one close to my work is working about 90% of the time and when it goes down, they fix it quickly. It’s remarkable considering all the other non-working Kates. Loaded $118,000 since August 2014 on that one Kate. Never used service desk or cashier. Small time for many I know but I was able to get in on some CC promos, Amex promos and Staples/Ink promos.
Half the time I go there I’ve seen someone else loading GC either before me or waiting to do so. I bet the majority of use, at least $$$ wise, on that one Kate is for MS. I’ve even talked to a few MSers at that WM.
I suggest making the managers aware of non-working Kates. Don’t just walk out. At least make them know you drove out there for nothing. That’s helped me a number of times get a Kate back up and running sooner.
Good point about letting a manager know about non-working machines. Also, some have had success getting machines fixed by contacting Walmart either online or by phone. I understand phone might be more effective, but either is worth a try.
Which “Kate” do you frequently use in L.A? Thank you!!
All fine and dandy but how do you override the machine programming. The WMC at East Stroudsburg, PA has been programmed to beep the supervisor that is being used for bluebird loads. The supervisor even explained to me that they carry this monitor that beeps when someone loading bluebirds and she stands next to me watching the whole process which makes me uneasy.
Does the Kate at East Stroudsburg WM sell MO’s?
I used to load to the limit and then wait 10 minutes, but have since change my load amounts a bit so that who ever comes behind me doesn’t trip the velocity limit.
i feel like most people already know this. what would really be helpful is figuring out how to fix the PIN entry bug that plagues so many of these machines.
Shawn noted in his WME guide that he’s had luck getting rid of the PIN error by having the machine rebooted by a manager. Unfortunately I’ve not had the same luck as him, but might be worth a try.
This game would be so much easier if people learned the rules and didn’t jam up the machines. Twice in the past, I’ve been finishing at a machine before and saw someone come up behind me with BB in hand. I turned to them and said, “I maxed out 1999.99 so you need to wait about 6 minutes.” Both times, they grin at me as if they understand, but then jump on the machine as I walk off. Fools….
Consecutive $200 loads will never trip the limits. Anywhere to donate a bunch of Gift cards with $.01 left?
I do $1,999.00 and then buy Amazon gift cards for a $1 if I do not feel like swiping again to clear it out.
You are correct. The most I have loaded is 18/200. I could have done more but that’s over half an hour at the machine…BTW, after about the sixth card, the floor manager’s handheld device gives off a loud tone alerting them to the “large” transactions taking place. One time prior to the 18x, I was loading about 15 cards. The device would beep and the rep kept walking by me to see what I was doing. I keep my loads to about 15 cards and do a couple at register and one at service desk.
And if you want to keep your transaction “quiet” put your headphone plug or just a random mini plug, into the jack on the kiosk and it will not announce “$200”
Mike, which plug are you referring to? The only one I’ve noticed is for the hearing impaired that is located on the front. I tried, knowing that it was almost a 100% chance it wouldn’t work, to put headphones in there and my assumption was confirmed. My Wal-Mart isn’t in a shady area I just hate people walking by hearing $500.
Yup, it doesn’t work with headphones. There are supposed tricks on FT like pushing a number on the keypad while putting the headphones in, etc. Doesn’t work for me, at least at my WM. When the machine asks “do you want cash back?”, the customers at the return center wake up.
I believe you will find the answer to these questions (and more!) in the “Bet You Didn’t Know” archives. Try here –> https://frequentmiler.com/2014/11/07/bet-you-didnt-know-how-to-silence-the-walmart-moneycenter-express/