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Why Won’t My Happy Card Gift Card Work?

Happy Cards not working? Here are 6 reasons why your Happy Card might not work and what you can do about it. Plus a hint on how Happy Cards work.

Watch this video above to see how Happy Card Gift Cards work.

What are Happy Cards?

Happy Cards are new multi-store gift cards recently launched by Blackhawk Network (parent company of When I say “multi-store,” I mean that each gift card can be used at a collection of stores or restaurants, as listed on the front of the card.

The popular Happy Teen gift cards, for example, can be used at Regal Cinemas, Sephora, Jamba Juice, Nike and a couple of other merchants. The Happy Student gift cards can be redeemed at Dell, Bed Bath & Beyond, Burger King, American Eagle, JCPenney and more.

While these cards are not quite as flexible as Visa gift cards and Mastercard gift cards (which can be used almost anywhere debit cards are accepted), Happy Cards give consumers a nice selection of ways to use these gift cards without paying extra.

Happy Cards have no fees and they don’t expire!

How do Happy Cards Work?

Happy Cards at Gift Card Mall in Lowe's

As I mentioned above, Happy Cards are powered by Blackhawk Network (BHN). Though you may not be familiar with that name, I would guess you have seen their flagship kiosks–Gift Card Malls (like the one pictured above) in grocery stores, department stores, gas stations and a variety of other merchants across the United States. (That’s just the tip of it. BHN sells gift cards and other prepaid products throughout the world as well). As such, the company has partnerships with nearly all of the top national stores and restaurants plus a number of regional and local ones as well. So when BHN wanted to give consumers more of what they want in a gift card (More Choices! No Fees!), they turned to their partner network to bundle brands together in a way that has never been done before. That’s how the relationships work, but what about the technology?

I have several blog posts that you can read to better understand how store gift cards (closed-loop) differ from Visa and Mastercard gift cards (open-loop or bank-issued). For the purposes of this blog post, let me explain a few things very simply. Stores and restaurants modify their own cash registers and payment processing systems in order to accept their own gift cards. Sephora, for example, has their own gift card program so Sephora gift cards are only redeemable in Sephora stores. Jamba Juice gift cards are only redeemable in Jamba Juice stores, and so forth. However, these same stores and restaurants can accept Visa and Mastercard gift cards by running the transaction as a debit or credit card–meaning they use their bank’s network to process bank-issued gift cards.

Happy Cards are processed like bank-issued gift cards so that the participating merchants can accept these cross-brand gift cards without changing their individual payment processing systems. That’s why Happy Cards have to be run as “credit” transactions rather than “gift card” transactions. (More on that below).

Why Isn’t My Happy Card Working?

Now that you know what Happy Cards are and how stores are able to accept them, let’s talk about the reasons why your Happy Card gift card isn’t working and what to do in order to make your Happy Card transaction…a happy one. Below are five possible reasons why your Happy Card gift card could be declined:

(And just to be clear, when I say Happy Cards, I am referring to Happy Teen, Happy Kid, Happy Lady, Happy Guy, Happy Beauty, Happy Student, Happy Happy Bride, Happy Eats, Happy Local Eats, Happy Bites, Happy Dining and all of the variations of our Happy Cards gift cards.)

1. Happy Card Gift Card Balance Too Low

Like other gift cards, the balance of your Happy Card gift card must be greater than the amount of your purchase. So, for example, if you are buying a $15 movie ticket at Regal Cinemas with your Happy Kid gift card, but you only have a balance of $10 on the card, then the Happy Card will decline. In order to use a Happy Card when the balance is less than the amount needed to make a purchase, tell the cashier how much money to charge onto the Happy Card gift card and then use another form of payment to complete the purchase. (This is called a split-tender transaction.)

Here’s how to check the balance of your Happy Cards.

2. Happy Cards Must be Processed as “CREDIT” Transactions

As I explained above, Happy Cards are gift cards, but they have to be processed as credit card transactions in order to work at all of the stores and restaurants listed on the cards. When I took my Happy Bites gift card to Panera Bread, I found that it took a minute for the cashier to understand how the card worked. However, the instructions are clearly written on the card, so I just asked the cashier to read the instructions and run the card as a “credit” rather than a “gift” card. It worked!

Cashier holding Happy Card

3. Store Isn’t in the System

Although Happy Cards are processed on bank-owned open-loop networks (credit card systems), Happy Cards may only be redeemed at the merchants listed on the front of the cards. To enforce this restriction, each store is listed in a database of allowable merchants. Occasionally, an individual location is missing from the list. If this happens, contact customer service. They should be able to pull up a record of the attempted transaction and either correct the situation or explain why the card could not be used.

Contact customer service at or call this number during business hours: 855-606-3494.

4. Happy Cards Might Not Work Online

Happy Cards are designed to work in stores–in the physical locations of the merchants listed on the front of the cards. Many of the merchants in the Happy Cards program have also made changes to their systems in order to accept these Happy Cards online. However, since not all of the merchants are set up to do so, we can’t promise the cards will work online. You may try to use your Happy Cards online, but remember that you must put the gift card number into the “CREDIT/DEBIT” card field and the dollar amount of the transaction must be less than the balance of the gift card. You may additionally have to enter the expiration date and CVV2 number listed on the back of the card.

5. Usable in U.S. Stores Only

For merchants that have an international presence, please remember that Happy Cards are only usable in stores and restaurants within the U.S. This includes physical locations as well as websites.

Back of a Happy Card gift card

6. Expiration Date and CVV Not Entered Correctly

Happy Card funds never expire. However, in order to run a Happy Card as a “CREDIT” transaction, the system requires that you enter three numbers–the card number, an expiration date and a CVV2 number, all listed on the back of the card. When I used my Happy Bites gift card at Panera Bread, I had to enter all three numbers myself via a customer-facing terminal. (Some merchants will allow you to swipe the card, but in this case, I had to key-enter the numbers myself.) When entering the numbers, take care to enter all three numbers correctly.

Ready to Use Your Happy Cards?

I am really excited about the possibilities that Happy Cards create for consumers. These cards offer flexibility and greater choice in how you redeem your gift cards without some of the issues that have plagued the public in the past. For example, I regularly report on gift cards in bankruptcy because consumers get left with useless gift cards if a store goes out of business. Happy Cards solve that problem! If one of the merchants listed on the card goes out of business, the gift card holder can still use the card at one of the other stores or restaurants! That’s just one of the perks. There are others that I will be sharing in future blog posts.

Until then, if you have any other questions about your Happy Card, let me know in the comments below or contact me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend). I would love to help you out.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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