Coles customers slam supermarket over gift cards that 'can't be used'

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·4-min read

A gift card sold at Coles has been labelled "frustrating and restrictive" by fed up customers who say they've been stuck paying monthly fees while being unable to spend it anywhere. 

Hundreds claim to have been short-changed by Vanilla Visa gift cards, complaining that a pin code is required when trying to use the card, despite one not been given when it's purchased. 

When reporting issues or requesting assistance, the company's offshore customer service team either re-direct complaints, or offer unhelpful troubleshooting advice, consumers have claimed.

One disappointed customer was gifted two $25 Vanilla Visa cards purchased from the Coles Norwest store, in Sydney's Hills District, in 2019, and said despite trying several times, had been unable to spend either of them. 

A Coles store is pictured.
Coles is selling Vanilla Visa cards which consumers say are almost impossible to use. Source: Getty Images

"Because they're US based and they're so archaic in their systems, they don't supply pins or anything with it," Dave Thompson told Yahoo News Australia. 

Mr Thompson even tried loading his balance onto his PayPal account but said he received an error message saying the card was "not designed for out-of-store purchases". 

"It basically means they're wanting you to sign at the terminal, which in Australia, is obsolete," he said. 

"It's like they haven't kept up with the technology in different regions around the world, and yet they're still selling the product." 

Consumers give up on Vanilla Visa cards

Mr Thompson suspected there was likely a large volume of consumers who have given up on using the card and accepted the likelihood of never being able to. 

"You beat your head against the wall so many times, and sooner or later most people go 'oh just forget about it'," he said. 

Two Vanilla Visa cards with a $25 value are pictured.
These two Vanilla Visa cards still have their original values, but they are virtually impossible to use. Source: Supplied

Another recalled being charged a $2.50 monthly fee after having the gift card for six months, causing the value of her card to depreciate from $100 to $47.50. 

"This was confirmed over the phone. I'd definitely recommend gifting actual money, not these cards. That's obviously how they make their money," the consumer wrote in a review shared to Product Review. 

Someone else said they could use the card in "Coles and other supermarkets", but "everywhere else asked for a pin which seems to not be able to set up as far as I can find".

Terms and conditions on the inside of the pack

Yet another person agreed the card could not be used as it was advertised, claiming the "full terms and conditions are enclosed inside, but this makes it impossible to know these things before purchase".

The card was "next to impossible to use" for another shopper, who said their card wasn't accepted in "major retail stores, or online, despite all the instructions saying it would be accepted anywhere that takes VISA". 

Mr Thompson said he had been able to confirm his cards still had their original balance by logging into an online portal, and fortunately he had not been charged the monthly fee incurred by other consumers. 

The back of two Vanilla Visa cards with a $25 value are pictured.
The back of the Vanilla cards encourage consumers to treat them like cash. Source: Supplied

Still frustrated at being unable to use it, he took his complaint to Coles almost three weeks ago, but had no luck having the issue resolved. 

According to private messages supplied to Yahoo News Australia, Coles has passed on Mr Thompson's complaint to Bancorp, the supplier of Vanilla Visa cards. 

Coles stands by validity of Vanilla Visa cards

Coles rejected claims suggesting Vanilla Visa cards could not be used in major retailers, and stood by the claim it was accepted in any outlet that took Visa. 

“Coles offers a variety of gift cards in our stores that are very popular with our customers. Different gift cards have varied Terms and Conditions and we encourage customers to read these before purchasing gift cards," a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia. 

"All customer complaints received by our Customer Care team are treated seriously and handled appropriately.”

Yahoo News Australia contacted Bancorp, but the company has not responded to a request for comment. 

Vanilla Visa declined to comment when contacted by Yahoo News Australia. 

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