Update: As of January 22, it seems all Safeway stores have in fact removed Visa gift cards from their racks.
Yesterday, I reported that Safeway stores were pulling Visa gift cards from their shelves. Some reports indicate that this would be a permanent move due to massive fraud, while others think it might be a temporary move. Since posting about this, lots of people around the country have been emailing me, saying their local Safeway stores have also pulled variable load Visa gift cards.
I went to my local store shortly after hearing about this yesterday and was able to buy a $500 Visa gift card without any trouble. I got worried when I noticed a bunch of empty rows and a ladder next to the gift card stand. My worries were unfounded when I was able to buy the gift card without any problems.
A couple of hours later, lots of emails were coming in. Even one from my sister, who hadn’t read the post but told me my brother-in-law stopped by Safeway to complete some credit card spending requirements and found all the racks were cleared. Maybe I missed the big purge, I thought, so I went back to Safeway a few hours later. It was also convenient because it gave me another opportunity to get my monthly $500 spending requirement done on the AAdvantage card (after calling Barclays and clearing the transaction).
I went back and the racks looked the same. The ladder was gone and there were plenty of variable load gift cards to choose from. I picked one up and went to the express checkout line. The cashier rung up the transaction, scanned her card for an override, and the receipt printed. However, the activation confirmation did not and when the cashier looked at her screen, she notice a “did not activate” message.
The cashier called her colleague over – the same woman who rung me up earlier that day. She picked up another card and took me over to another register to ring me up. The same thing happened. She spoke to a manager on the phone, who couldn’t figure out the problem. The error code indicated we were trying to load more than the permissible amount on the card. She got yet another card and I asked her to try $450 instead of $500. This time, the transaction went through. The cashier had handled this as an exchange, so I didn’t have to swipe my card again and received $50 cash back for the difference.
Apparently, other people are also having this problem. It’s probably related to the removal of Visa gift cards. Perhaps the stores that still carry them (like the one I visited) haven’t gotten around to pulling their inventory yet. But the system is trying to discourage sales until it happens. When I went home, I checked the card balance to make sure it was in fact activated – it was. I’ll head out again tomorrow to see if the problem persists. I don’t know if the lower $450 purchase amount really helped or if it was a fluke. But it’s worth trying if you run into a similar issue at checkout.
Subscribe to Blog via Email