Last year I won a couple of prepaid debit cards in a Christmas party raffle. Lucky me! I knew that the cards had to be registered before use, but I didn’t get around to it until a few weeks ago, when I realized that I was running out of time. The cards said that they were good “through 10/20,” but that’s tricky wording. To some people it means “until the point at which October begins” and to others it means “until the point at which October ends.” The issuing bank really ought to have been clearer about that. Anyway, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I was planning to apply the cards toward my insurance renewal in early September.
But my insurance renewal was delayed until this week, and when I tried to use the cards, the payment was declined. I thought it was the insurance agent’s fault (she’d been unable to run my credit card the day before, and there was nothing wrong with the card–I know, because I called the bank and made sure). I didn’t want to keep reading the numbers to her, so I gave up, figuring I could find something to buy later with the cards.
Time flew, and suddenly I had only a few hours left. I tried applying one of the cards toward an Amazon gift card, a quick and easy solution. “Payment declined.” Uh-oh. I scanned the literature that had come with the cards. The cards were supposed to be good for anything but cash at any place where Visa was accepted. I tried the other card at Target. “Payment declined.” Uh-oh. So I called the customer service number on the back of the card. “Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” I tried the number several times to be sure. IT DID NOT WORK! What kind of a bank lets their customer service line go dead?
I was starting to panic. I was certain now, having read the literature, that the cards would expire at midnight. I was on the brink of losing a nice chunk of change!
So I examined the literature again, hoping to find a clue. Hidden under the “benefits of registration,” a section which I hadn’t read carefully because registration was mandatory, there was a line about how online retailers require a billing address. The bank hadn’t told me to add an address during registration or even made it clear that I could. But, I went back to the registration site, and I found a way to do it. The payments went through (for an Amazon gift card), with little time to spare.
Thank goodness! It’s bad enough that I had to work so hard for free money, but I would have felt like a total ass if I’d pissed it away. Now all I have to do is decide what to spend the money on. I can take my time, though. Gift cards are subject to state law and cannot expire! 🙂