Sunday, June 15, 2008

Don't Buy Walmart Visa Debit Cards!!!


From time to time I encounter a scam that, as a military citizen who has sworn to protect my fellow citizens, I feel is a duty of mine to warn others about. The latest scam I have encountered, is the Walmart Visa debit card, also known as a Walmart Visa Gift Card.

First of all, dear old Sam Walton is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave with all the damage that has been done to the Walmart business he created. What was once a business which only sold products made in the USA and the rare items for which there were no US manufacturers of similar products, much of the contents of the stores are now from foreign countries.

What's worse, is that much of the customer service support, such as for the Visa debit cards, has been farmed out to organizations in foreign countries as well. The biggest problem with this is that there are no enforceable contractual agreements across national borders. Many don't realize that giving their personal information out to such persons, places them at a MUCH higher level of risk of identity theft. Think about it. If a person in a foreign land steals your identity due to access to your account(s), you cannot call the police on them and you cannot take them to court. Are these the people that you want to grant access to your personal accounts?

The other issue with the debit/gift cards sold by Walmart, is that there are a lot of charges that, although not necessarily hidden from you, will bite you in the butt -- repeatedly.

First of all, there's the $5.44 fee you will pay to purchase the card. That isn't printed on the face of the packaging for the card. All you'll see is "$100 Gift Value". When you open the sealed packaging, you'll find an insert that tells you about the fees you were previously unaware of.

Next, are the fees that are charged when converting the card to a reloadable form. Bear in mind that it will not only cost you $5 to do so, but will also cost you another $4.94 PER MONTH for it to be in reloadable form!

To compound the problem, you will be charged a minimum of $0.50 per call to customer service, and if you ask them for a refund, that too will cost you another $5.00. They tell you in the 'fine print' insert that you can obtain a full refund, but ONLY if there have been no transactions against the card. That's where they get you again.

I bought my Walmart Visa Gift Card to use with Yahoo Music, so that I could better protect myself against fraudulent charges. (That's another story in which Bank of America is at fault.) I thought that if someone was able to steal this card's information, that there would be a limit to the damage they could do to my account. Not true, because all account information for the debit cards is sent to the Philippines. I made two attempts to have Yahoo use the new card for my unlimited music subscription. They attempt to bill $1 to your card, in order to test for the validity of the information provided. Yahoo was told that the charge was refused/rejected, yet the $1 charge was charged to the card anyway. Since these charges appear on the account, I am refused a full refund although the card refuses to function.

If you need a Visa card that you can load and use without having to worry about charges for insufficient funds charges, or which cannot drain your checking/savings account of all available funds, I suggest you speak with your banking organization about a secured Visa credit card. If your current banking institution doesn't/won't provide you with one, and many don't, continue inquiring with other banks in your area. Someone is bound to issue you a secured credit card (that's one in which you provide the funds for upfront) without charging you all the fees that Walmart will charge you.

Following is Walmart's response to my complaint about the issue. Notice that they clearly state that they have no access to the information and that the only method to address the issue is to call someone else on the phone. Bear in mind that they charge you for each call you make.

No comments: