[Update: Resolved] Major problems reported w/ Mastercard gift cards


Update 12/16/19: Doctor of Credit reports that funds are being returned to Mastercards gift cards affected with the line item noting “Missing MasterCard Settlement Credit’”, though it’s unclear whether this has only happened for those who filed a dispute or for everyone. It’s worth checking any cards you had caught up in this. Personally, I’ve been overly cautious in leaving a few cents on all of my GCs lately (both VGCs and MCGCs) and likely will continue to do that going forward based on DPs from the comments on this post. (H/T: Doctor of Credit).

Many users are reporting a new major issue over the past week with Mastercard gift cards. Reports are indicating that when users attempt to use the cards at some stores, the payment terminal is showing a “Not Authorized” error, but the card is being drained anyway. Comments at Doctor of Credit and reddit indicate the issue has happened at a wide range of stores, including Kroger (and affiliates), Winn Dixie, Publix, Harris Teeter, Walmart, Dollar General, Family Dollar and more . This one looks messy and I’ve not yet seen any reports of resolution, so I would recommend laying low with Mastercard gift cards at the moment (and certainly keeping your receipts even when purchases do not go through).

a cartoon of a man holding his head

While there have been noted issues in the past with Mastercard gift cards (particularly from Office Max / Office Depot), the issue there has long been fraudulent draining shortly after activation and before the purchaser is able to use the card. This new issue is different: people are reporting that they attempt to use their Mastercard gift card at a store where it is expected to work (specifically for money order purchases at a number of different grocery store chains or for Bluebird / Serve loads, but I’ve seen at least one report of this happening with a regular purchase at a grocery store) and the payment terminal is showing a “not authorized” error but draining the card anyway. As you can imagine, that puts the customer with the gift card between a rock and a hard place, with the gift card issuer saying that the retailer charged the card and to follow up the them and the retailer showing that the transaction was declined.

Many people specifically note the issue happening with Metabank cards, including those purchased at Staples during the recent fee-free promotion and with $500 Mastercard Gift Cards purchased elsewhere. Blackhawk has apparently been telling people to wait 5-7 business days for the funds to be automatically returned and if they are not after that time to then file a dispute with the retailer, but reports I’ve read indicate that each retailer has reported that the transaction shows as “declined” in their system and to contact the issuer (Blackhawk). Some speculation is that the cards are auto-draining to zero when the system goes to authorize payment and that perhaps using them for a transaction of less than the total card value might not cause the same issue (i.e. using a $200 card for a transaction of $199.98 may not drain the card, whereas using a $200 card for a full $200 swipe is draining the card). Note that I haven’t seen enough data points to back that up as fact.

It is possible that this is just some sort of lag in returning the funds to the cards that will happen automatically, but I’ve seen reports of this happening as far back as 10/22 to some folks with no resolution reported yet. I’m hopeful that this one will resolve itself, but if you’re sitting on unused Mastercard gift cards, you may want to avoid the grocery store / Walmart / Dollar General and associated stores with them for now. At least one commenter reported prepaying utility bills with the cards without an issue this week, so my best guess is that the issue is somehow confined to transactions via an in-person point-of-sale machine.

This is also a reminder of the importance of keeping detailed records. I could see someone who is less organized getting cards mixed up and later seeing $0 balances and assuming that these had been used. While receipts haven’t been of much help to folks thus far, I would imagine that having both the physical card and receipt will better position you for an eventual resolution. Here’s hoping it comes sooner rather than later for those affected.

H/T: reddit, Doctor of Credit, and Miles to Memories

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i bought two prepaid $100.00 Mastercard gift cards…each one cost me a fee of $5.95. They were out of other cards so i purchased two…i learned from my mistake. I tried to use the card at the grocery store 3 weeks later, and it did not work. After an hour of the store calling their Mastercard Account (Blackhawk?), i was told i needed to call the 1-800 number on the back of the card. All i wanted and asked Mastercard CS for, was to get my money back for the card that did not work. One of them actually worked. What Mastercard customer service said was the card was compromised prior to being purchased, and non refundable. I did get the receipt at the time i purchased that the card was “activated”, so i never thought there would be an issue. While they offered a new card, i just wanted my money back. Customer service could not even offer me my money back. Anyone listening, please do not get these. There are a lot of other ways, mainly cash, and not cards you have to spend $5.95 to use. Needless to say, i will not purchase the cards again. The card that did work, i tried to load to my Amazon account, after “activating online per the sticker on the front of the card,” and i was told “payment declined.” Thank goodness i checked at the grocery store with the other card and it still works there…what a waste of time and money. Here again, do not purchase…let the buyer beware!

[…] them as soon as you can (probably another reason to pass on these). There was a time last year when these were auto-draining at some stores even though the purchase was declined at the register. That eventually got resolved, but it’s a headache that probably isn’t worth inheriting […]


i have had the same problem with visa GCs, and blackhawk’s Customer Service is the worst i have experienced. and probably out of the country…which is kind of scary when you have had $200-800 magically disappear/ drained from your cards.
I have called, and they tell you the merchant got the money, and the merchant says they didnt, so magically, the money has disappeared.
filed disputes, and they do not respond, not even with an acknowledgement that they have your dispute filed. I would go to where ever you bought the cards, and complain, plus file a dispute with your credit card company if you bought them on credit cards. This is outright fraud. And somebody should go to jail for this theft. Too bad we cannot trust , or get service from large corporations anymore. Good Luck to you all. Prayers are at hand.
P.S. I will tell you if I get a resolution. But it appears they want to take their time.


Just got notice and my 3 cards have also been credited the $200 back to each.


Thanks for reporting this, I had just about given up. Just checked my 3 cards and they have now been reloaded. I filed a dispute on them


My $200 card has been credited the missing $200. I filed a dispute a few weeks ago. The line item for mine says “Missing MasterCard Settlement Credit (via Portal)”


Have their been any problems with drained MCGC when liquidating them through Plastiq? I got an opportunity for a triple stack with Staples no activation fee, Staples 2500 MR and office supplies $40 back, but if I’ll be out $400 then I’ll pass.


The Mastercards from Staples do not work for my Cirro energy payment, but the Visa cards from Staples work fine. Also, usually when drained down to less than $10, I put the balance of a gift card to Amazon. I have not had a problem with the Staples Visa card to send the last 2 or 3 dollars to Amazon, but the Mastercard had $4.80 and if never went through.


I still have my funds missing from 10/25


Just checked again. Missing funds on all 3 cards as of 11/10 3:35PM EST


Been a week…any updates here?


all 4 of my MCGCs are still incorrectly showing zero balance for the past 3 weeks. time to think of backup plans


nick – I have been communicating a bit back and forth with Gene (who commented in this matter and his troubles above )on this issue. I fought a 3 month battle on 3, $200 cards I got at Staples no fee, to get my money back. I had bought them with my old style Ink Plus card. Last year I hit the 200,000 maximum 5 times office category on that card with a few referrals but mostly churning the $200 Visa and MC gift cards into money orders and depositing the into 4 separate banks. I have a “long story”, point by point rendition of my battle and I can send you that letter, if you have any interest. You just need to send me your actual e-mail so I can send it to you. I have been in this “hobby” at least 25 years or longer now, have been to a couple of FTU’s along the way and consider myself sophisticated and a veteran in the hobby. Getting this money back was a real challenge for me and a battle. I would be happy to share my story with you.


P.S. to my note to you of a minute ago Nick — I just drained 3 $200 MC gift cards today. I have the money order made out to $199 and the fee is 99 cents. Total is $199.99. I leave a penny on the card. This seems to work out well and I have not gotten screwed. Seems safer to me. But this is just my feeling.


Anyone has any updates on this issue? Grocery store said they didn’t take the money. MC mall said the transaction was settled??? Where is the money?? Anyone has the same problem?


Any updates here? Giant has 2x gas points promo ending on Thu so I’m trying to figure out if it’s safe to buy MCGC’s at this point?


so I had something like this happen a while back but what I ended up doing was taking the rejection receipt from walmart, and what happened was when the card was drained the issurer automatically turns the card off so first you got to turn it back on so returns can happen, and 2nd I had to spend about a week and half moving up walmarts chain of command where they eventually not only found the money but kept saying they try returning it and its not working so to call the issuer which is where I found out the card issuer turned it off once it reaches 0 since that time I always try and leave just .01 on the card to make sure its not turned off or anything.

nsx at FlyerTalk

It’s almost as if manufactured spending is more trouble than it’s worth.


Yup I agree just from an Old Flipper not the Fish .


With all these absurd MC debit card problems stretching back YEARS, you’d have to be nuts ever to buy one again.


Any word if this affects Plastiq payments using MCGC?


Used BHN MCGC from Staples purchase last week on Mortgage and Auto loans thru Plastiq drained without issue. Checked both Plastiq and GCM website after seeing post from last weeks MC sale.