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Shelley Hunter

How to Replace a Gift Card Purchased at the Grocery Store

Lost gift cards bought at grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations can be found (and replaced) if you know where to look.

gift card at grocery store

It happens. You receive a gift card from a friend and accidentally throw it into the recycle bin along with the wrapping paper torn off of other presents. Or you receive an egift card in your email inbox and inadvertently delete it. You look everywhere, hoping the gift card will turn up, but it’s gone. Now what?

Instead of continuing to search for a gift card that can’t be found, try getting a replacement gift card instead. To do this, you’ll need to have proof of purchase and know which company to contact.

If you lost a gift card purchased directly from a store or restaurant, then figuring out whom to talk to should be fairly easy. If you lost a gift card purchased online (plastic or digital), then establishing proof of purchase should also be pretty simple. Tracking down a lost gift card that you purchased at a grocery store, convenience store, gas station or other third-party merchant, however, can be a little more complicated because there are three businesses involved in making that gift card available.

The Gift Card / Grocery Store Relationship

Though we can debate terminology from now until your gift card expires, for the purposes of helping you understand how gift cards work in grocery stores, I will refer to the three parties involved as follows:

  • The Store. The store is the grocery store, gas station, convenience store or other place from which you purchase another brand’s gift card. Think Safeway, Giant Eagle and Kroger.
  • The Gift Card Provider. This is the company responsible for the racks of gift cards available within the store. Gift Card Mall, for example, provides a huge selection of gift cards in nearly every major food chain (plus office supply stores, craft stores and department stores) in the country.
  • The Gift Card Brand. The brand is the retailer on the gift card–the store or restaurant you must visit in order to redeem the gift card. Popular gift card brands include Sephora, Best Buy, The Home Depot, Target and more. Open loop network gift cards such as Visa®, Mastercard® and American Express® are also brands (for the context of this blog), but are handled a little differently. We will discuss those below as well.

Although these parties work together to provide the full gift card program, each party only has access to its own information. For example, the store can determine that a gift card has been sold, but it cannot confirm whether or not the gift card has been activated. The gift card provider can determine that a gift card has been activated, but it can’t tell if the gift card has been used. The brand can see transactions charged to a gift card, but doesn’t have information about the initial sale of the gift card. So when a gift card purchased from a grocery store gets lost, getting a replacement card may require speaking to at least two, if not all three, of these companies.

Lost Gift Card Experts

In a previous post on how to find a lost gift card, I talked about all of the places to look for a missing card number and briefly touched on whom to talk to if the lost gift card had been purchased at a grocery store. Given that an increasing number of gift cards are bought from the grocery store racks and that knowing whom to call can be such a puzzle, I want to go into greater detail on how to replace a gift card purchased anywhere other than directly from the issuing store or restaurant.

Rather than tackle this topic on my own, however, I turned to two customer service representatives who frequently help consumers replace lost gift cards. According to these lost gift card experts, the first step to getting a replacement card is proving that you purchased the gift card in the first place. Below are five ways to provide proof of purchase.

Step 1. Establish Proof of Gift Card Purchase

In order to report a gift card lost or stolen, you’ll need to know the gift card number. If you don’t have the gift card number, then proof of purchase is the next best thing. This can be found on an activation receipt, a store receipt, a credit or debit transaction, a loyalty card or via some serious sleuthing. Below I’ll explain each of these options and then we will discuss what to do if you’re not the person who bought the gift card.

A. Find the Activation Receipt

When you purchase a gift card, you will most likely be given a paper receipt that shows the last few digits of the gift card, the date and time of the transaction and the dollar value loaded onto the gift card. As easy as it may be to toss that piece of paper into the recycle bin, it can be super helpful in replacing a gift card that is gone. Sometimes the activation receipt is combined with the store receipt and other times it is a separate piece of paper. If you can locate the activation receipt, then skip down to Step #2 below and get ready to pick up the phone.

B. Locate the Store Receipt

If you can’t find the activation receipt (or you didn’t receive one), look for the store receipt that shows everything you bought on that visit to the store. Though you might not find a portion of the gift card number on the store receipt, you should be able to identify the gift card purchase among the other items listed. The line item along with the location of the store, date and time or purchase and the dollar value loaded onto the gift card should be enough information to help a customer service representative locate the gift card number internally. If you find the gift card transaction on a store receipt, then you too can skip to Step #2 with a hopeful heart!

C. Check Your Bank Statement

If you used a debit or credit card to purchase the gift card, then look for the transaction on your bank statement. The date, time and location of the gift card purchase might be enough to help a customer service representative locate your card number. If you only purchased a gift card at that time, the dollar value of the gift card may be the same as the total transaction charge as well, which would be helpful. Once you find the transaction, take the debit or credit card back to the same store and see if you can get a reprint of your receipt (see Tip E below).

D. Get Out Your Loyalty Card

If you purchased the gift card at a grocery store and used your loyalty card at checkout, then the gift card transaction should be linked to that card. Take your loyalty card back to the grocery store and see if you can get a reprint of your receipt (See Tip E below).

E. Try to Get a Copy of the Receipt

This tip comes straight from my gift card comrades and is my sleeper pick for ways to gather the information needed to get a replacement gift card. According to these lost gift card experts, you can go back to the store and ask for a reprint of your purchase receipt. I had no idea you could do this! You’ll need to bring your loyalty card, if applicable, and the payment card used to purchase the gift card and be able to provide as much information as possible such as the day, time and dollar amount of the full transaction. If you can remember which checkout stand you went through, that would be helpful too.

If you’ve exhausted all of these choices and still cannot find proof of purchase, then the situation is dire but not necessarily unsolvable. Like it or not, stores capture quite a bit of information about our transactions. If you purchased the gift card with cash or simply can’t find any other physical proof that you bought a gift card, but can still provide the information needed from memory (such as store, date, time, dollar value of purchase and so forth), then you may still be able to find a customer service representative willing to help you determine whether or not the gift card is replaceable.

Working through the process will likely take some time, so be patient. Though a successful outcome is not guaranteed, I think it’s worth making a few phone calls to see if you can get a replacement gift card.

Step 2. Call the Right Customer Service Person

By now, you’ve probably figured out that in order to replace a lost gift card purchased at a grocery store, you will have to talk to a customer service representative. But which customer service number should you call? The people at the store, the gift card provider or the brand? The answer depends on the proof of purchase you found. Below is a list of lost gift card scenarios with tips on whom to call depending on the information you have.

A. Lost Gift Card Purchased from a Grocery Store

branded gift cards sold at grocery store

If you purchased a closed loop gift card (one that is only good at a specific store or restaurant) at a grocery store and can’t find the card but have proof of purchase, then look through the table below to determine which company to call and what to expect when you get on the phone.

Proof of PurchaseWhom to CallWhat to Expect
Activation ReceiptCall the Gift Card Provider

The gift card provider is the company that manages the racks of gift cards within the store. To figure out who the gift card provider is, try the following:

  1. Ask the Store. Call or visit the store where you purchased the gift card and ask who the store’s gift card provider is. Explain that you need to call the gift card provider to get a replacement gift card.
  2. Look at the Rack. Go to the store and look at the gift card rack. Find the same gift card you purchased and look on the back of the card to see if the provider is listed.
  3. Look Online. Look at the Store’s website to see if a gift card provider is listed. For example, when I look at Safeway’s gift card landing page, it shows me that Gift Card Mall is the provider.

Here is the contact information for two of the most popular grocery store gift card providers:

  1. Gift Card Mall (by Blackhawk Network): Call 1-877-GC-MALL1 (1-877-426-2551) or fill out the contact form on the Gift Card Mall Contact Us page.
  2. Fast Card (by InComm): Call (800) 352-3084 or fill out the contact form on the Incomm Contact Us page.
The gift card provider should contact the gift card brand to see if the card has been used.

  1. If the lost gift card has been used (even partially), then it will be up to the gift card brand to decide if a replacement gift card will be offered.
  2. If the lost gift card has not been used, the gift card provider can work with the brand to cancel and replace the lost gift card.
Store ReceiptCall the Gift Card Provider
Similar to when you have an activation receipt, the gift card provider should be able to find the missing gift card numbers based on the information provided on the purchase receipt. See above for details on how to locate the correct gift card provider for your missing card.
Same as above.
Bank StatementGo to the Grocery Store
With the transaction information from your credit or debit card statement and the debit or credit card used to buy the gift card, go to the grocery store and ask a customer service representative to print a copy of your receipt so you can track down a missing gift card.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can reprint the receipt, then contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above. If you’re unable to reprint the receipt, contact the gift card provider anyway to see if the bank statement alone can provide proof of purchase.
Same as above.
Loyalty CardGo to the Grocery Store
Take your loyalty card to the grocery store (or use it to call the customer service number associated with your loyalty card) to either request a reprint of the receipt or research transactions linked to the card.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can reprint the receipt or provide transaction information, then contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above.
Same as above.
Details from MemoryGo to the Grocery Store
If you paid cash for the gift card or can’t find any proof of purchase, visit the grocery store (during non-busy hours) and ask if a manager or customer service representative can help you produce a receipt or gather enough information based on your recollection of the date, time, dollar amount and checkout stand visited to authenticate the gift card purchase.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can’t find the purchased, contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above. Perhaps their system is robust enough to locate a gift card purchase matching your description.

Call the Gift Card Brand
If neither the grocery store nor the gift card provider can find the gift card, look at a similar gift card on the rack and call the customer service number for the brand. The brand may be able to find an unused gift card matching the description of your transaction.
Without proof of purchase, it may not be possible to get a replacement card. Though I still think it is worth talking to all three parties, a positive outcome is not guaranteed.
   

B. Lost Visa Gift Card Purchased from a Grocery Store

visa gift card from grocery store

When you purchase an open loop gift card such as a Visa gift card, Mastercard gift card or an American Express gift card, the steps to getting a replacement card are essentially the same as above except for three things. The first is that you will only deal with the grocery store and the gift card provider–never the brand (Visa, Mastercard or American Express). The second difference is that the gift card provider is the company that will issue a replacement card, if necessary. And finally, you can dispute charges made to the lost (or stolen) gift card, just like you would with a stolen credit card.

Below are the steps to take when trying to get a replacement card for a lost Visa gift card purchased at a grocery store:

Proof of PurchaseWhom to CallWhat to Expect
Activation ReceiptCall the Gift Card Provider

The gift card provider is the company that manages the racks of gift cards within the store. To figure out who the gift card provider is, try the following:

  1. Ask the Store. Call or visit the store where you purchased the gift card and ask who the store’s gift card provider is. Explain that you need to call the gift card provider to get a replacement gift card.
  2. Look at the Rack. Go to the store and look at the gift card rack. Find the same gift card you purchased and look on the back of the card to see if the provider is listed.
  3. Look Online. Look at the Store’s website to see if a gift card provider is listed. For example, when I look at Safeway’s gift card landing page, it shows me that Gift Card Mall is the provider.

Here is the contact information for three of the most popular Visa gift card providers:

  1. Gift Card Mall (by Blackhawk Network): Call 1-877-GC-MALL1 (1-877-426-2551) or fill out the contact form on the Gift Card Mall Contact Us page.
  2. Vanilla Visa: Call 1-800-571-1376 or send a letter to the address listed on the Vanilla Visa Contact page.
  3. Walmart Visa Gift: Call 1-866-633-9096 or send a note via the Walmart Visa Contact page.
The gift card provider will review the gift card transactions to see if the card has been used.

  1. If the lost Visa gift card has been used (even partially), then it will be up to the gift card provider to decide if a replacement gift card for the remaining balance will be offered. At that point, you will also receive instructions on how to dispute transactions made to the card.
  2. If the lost gift card has not been used, the gift card provider can cancel and replace the lost gift card.
Store ReceiptCall the Gift Card Provider
Similar to when you have an activation receipt, the gift card provider should be able to find the missing gift card numbers based on the information provided on the purchase receipt. See above for details on how to locate the correct gift card provider for your missing card.
Same as above.
Bank StatementGo to the Grocery Store
With the transaction information from your credit or debit card statement and the debit or credit card used to buy the gift card, go to the grocery store and ask a customer service representative to print a copy of your receipt so you can track down a missing gift card.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can reprint the receipt, then contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above. If you’re unable to reprint the receipt, contact the gift card provider anyway to see if the bank statement alone can provide proof of purchase.
Same as above.
Loyalty CardGo to the Grocery Store
Take your loyalty card to the grocery store (or use it to call the customer service number associated with your loyalty card) to either request a reprint the receipt or research transactions linked to the card.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can reprint the receipt or provide transaction information, then contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above.
Same as above.
Details from MemoryGo to the Grocery Store
If you paid cash for the gift card or can’t find any proof of purchase, visit the grocery store (during non-busy hours) and ask if a manager or customer service representative can help you produce a receipt or gather enough information based on your recollection of the date, time, dollar amount and check out stand visited to authenticate the gift card purchase.

Call the Gift Card Provider
If the grocery store can’t find the purchased, contact the gift card provider using the steps listed above. Perhaps their system is robust enough to locate a gift card purchase matching your description.
Without proof of purchase, it may not be possible to get a replacement Visa gift card. Though I still think it is worth talking to the store and to the gift card provider, a positive outcome is not guaranteed.
   

What to Do if You Didn’t Buy the Gift Card?

thank you gift card

If you are the person who bought the missing gift card, then recovery is possible because you have all of the information needed to start the investigation. Yes, you may have lost the activation receipt or thrown away the store receipt, but as long as you can remember when and where you bought the card, you can call customer service to see about getting a new one.

If, on the other hand, you lost a gift card that somebody else bought and you don’t have the gift card number, then the only way to get a replacement card is to involve the giver in the search. You can either ask the giver to send proof of purchase to you so you can contact customer service or you can ask the person who bought the card to make the phone calls directly. The latter would likely be more effective, but means the gift giver has to do the work. The only other solution is to do nothing and accept the loss. My son recently had to do just that.

A few months ago, my 12-year-old received a Mastercard gift card for his birthday. When we tried to activate the gift card, however, the gift card provider told us the card number was so old that it wasn’t even in the system and there was no record of the gift card purchase. Anxiously, I texted the giver and asked if she could find the activation receipt or the store receipt so we could follow-up on the unusable gift card. At the very least, I wondered if she could give us the store where she bought the gift card so we could try and confirm that the gift card had been activated.

When the gift card giver declined to give us that information, we had no choice but to drop the matter. In this case, we had the physical gift card, but it didn’t work. Without information about the purchase, we had nothing to go on and nobody to call. (Birthday bummer.)

How to Protect Your Gift Cards

take a picture of a gift card

People always advise treating gift cards like cash, but what does that mean? If you received a $20 bill in a greeting card, you would most likely take the cash out of the greeting card and put it directly into your wallet. That’s what you need to do with gift cards as well. Don’t put the gift card back into the greeting card, stack it up with other presents, toss it on your desk or leave it out where somebody else can “find” it. Put the gift card into a safe place immediately. Even better, take a picture of the front and the back of the gift card so you have a record of gift card number just in case something happens later.

When giving someone a gift card, take a picture of the activation receipt for your own records and then give the original along with the gift card. Since you don’t need to hide the purchase price from the recipient (like you would with a traditional present), there’s no reason to keep the activation receipt from the person who will most likely need it the most. You could even add a note that reads, “If you have any trouble with this gift card, please let me know.”

What other gift card questions do you have? Leave a note for me in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend).

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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