KPRC 2 Investigates: New Visa gift cards empty, customers told nothing can be done

BBB shows $1,000′s of dollars in gift cards useless

We hear about gift card fraud, scams, and thefts frequently but it’s not clear that is what is happening with Vanilla Visa gift cards. One thing is clear, a whole lot of people say they can’t use the cards they were gifted.

HOUSTON – Gift cards are always the popular go-to holiday present. Now that people are trying to use them, some are saying their cards are worthless and the company that issues them won’t help. We hear about gift card fraud, scams, and thefts frequently but it’s not clear that is what is happening with Vanilla Visa gift cards. One thing is clear, a whole lot of people said they can’t use the cards they were gifted.

Customers get gift cards that do not work

Leslie Herring is a Katy mom of twins and a school teacher who is always helping and doing for others. So when her mom gave her a $100 Vanilla Visa gift card for Christmas, this mama wanted some new shoes!

“I was super excited. Went to go check out online, but the number in and it said, ‘there’s a problem with this card,’” explains Herring.

When she tried to check the balance on Vanilla Visa’s website, it directed her to call a toll-free number.

“I waited on hold for three hours and then they opened it and put a case number on it,” explains Herring. “But they cannot give me any money back and my card is still inoperable.”

Herring said the customer service rep told her there had been other reports of the same problem. And while no one with Vanilla returned our messages, plenty of people are complaining online.

Many complaints about Vanilla Visa gift cards not working

There’s a total of 73 complaints to the Better Business Bureau in Columbus, Georgia for INCOMM financial services, the parent company of Vanilla Visa prepaid cards.

BBB complaints about visa gift cards that don't work. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Sean A complained that he “bought Visa gift cards for Xmas, $500 each. None worked.”

On Christmas Day Donna wrote, “horrible to purchase the visa card and cannot get a hold of anyone. The card is not working.”

Leslie’s mom bought her Vanilla Visa card from Walmart but the retailer told her it couldn’t help because it wasn’t their product. And it is unclear if her gift card ever had money on it or if the money was somehow stolen before she received it.

“When I opened it, the seal was still sealed. There weren’t any bends or creases in the packaging. Everything was still closed and sealed up,” Herring explains.

While Vanilla Visa didn’t share this information with Herring, its website directs Texas customers with unresolved issues to file complaints with the Texas Department of Banking.

Prepaid credit cards are considered money service businesses in Texas and regulated by this agency.

Herring is filing that complaint now along with another one to the Better Business Bureau. She has been waiting on the Vanilla Visa to respond since the day after Christmas.

Vanilla Response

The day after our story aired, a representative with InComm Financial Services sent KPRC 2 Investigates this email:

“We regret to hear about this cardholders’ experience.

For context, the gift cards on display at retail have no value until they are activated at the cash register, when the buyer is provided with a receipt and a gift receipt.

When a cardholder is in possession of an inactive gift card, we ask for proof of purchase (receipt or gift receipt). That ensures that we have all of the relevant details to resolve any issues with the product, including ownership disputes, and reduces the likelihood of fraudulent activity.

We have contacted this cardholder asking for proof of purchase and had been waiting for her response. Following your inquiry, we have asked a Customer Care agent to reach out to the cardholder to resolve the matter. Feel free to check with her for an update.”

The same day our story aired, Herring said her mom received an email from someone with InComm letting her know her card was “now activated and available for use.”

What can I do if I get a bad gift card?

There are a few places you can go to get help if you bought a busted gift card.

If you have a complaint about a Vanilla Visa card, first contact the consumer assistance division of InComm Financial Services, Inc. at 1-800-571-1376. If your complaint regarding the company’s money transmission or currency exchange activity remains unresolved, please direct your complaint to the Texas Department of Banking:

Texas Department of Banking

2601 North Lamar Boulevard, Suite 300

Austin, Texas 78705-4294

Telephone Number: 1-877-276-5554 (toll free)

E-mail Address:

Website Address:

Better Business Bureau

InComm Financial Services is based in Columbus, Georgia. It appears customers who file complaints with the BBB usually get a quick response and resolution from the company. When you contact the Better Business Bureau, they not only keep track of your issue, they try to help you resolve it.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.