Using OneVanilla cards at Walmart has become (slightly) trickier

Over the weekend, a number of reports appeared of new problems encountered when users attempted to use OneVanilla prepaid debit cards at Walmart store locations. Now that I'm back from my quick vacation, I had a chance today to get over to Walmart and see what the fuss was all about.

Incidentally, I'm aware that there are multiple point-of-sale systems installed across the country and that individual stores and managers can impose their own restrictions, so my datapoints won't be relevant to everyone. This is not a conclusive study, it's a first glance at the situation, a workaround that worked for me, and some further observations.

The bad news is, the problems are real. The good news is, I found them to be pretty trivial.

Buy money orders "customer-first"

In my last post on Walmart point-of-sale system updates, I reported that:

It's now my belief that at some Walmart store locations with the new(est) software, split-tender transactions for money orders can still be processed "cashier first." Bill payment transactions, on the other hand, can only be processed "customer first."

Based on my experience today, I now believe that money orders must now also be processed "customer first," at least when using OneVanilla cards.

As a reminder, that means the customer must get all the way through to submitting their PIN before the cashier submits the amount of a split tender.

When my cashier submitted the amount of the split tender first, on the other hand, then after entering the OneVanilla card's PIN the system returned an "Alternative Payment Required" error.  

Problems with all-Vanilla transactions

After figuring out the above, I decided to see if I could buy a money order with only a single OneVanilla card. Even though I told the cashier to hold off on his end until after I had entered my PIN, the terminal still returned the "Alternative Payment Required" error.

While I may have been experiencing cashier error, out of an abundance of caution and laziness I'll continue combining Vanillas with other PIN-enabled cards, like my PayPal Debit MasterCards.

The final-swipe theory

The relevant FlyerTalk thread already has thousands of datapoints and plenty of speculation about why this particular brand of card causes us so much grief. One theory floated there that has a certain amount of charm to it is the idea that OneVanilla cards can't be used for the final swipe in a PIN-based transaction. That certainly fits with my experience above: when using a single OneVanilla card, it's inherently also the last card to be used and returns an error.

While it will require further experimentation, if the problem really is related to swipe order, a customer desperate to use exclusively OneVanilla cards (and not other PIN-enabled debit cards, like those sold at grocery stores or office supply stores) could use (up to 4) OneVanilla cards, while being sure to leave a small balance that could then be paid for with cash.


I'll obviously continue reporting if I see any further changes to the OneVanilla landscape, but for now, I'm remaining calm. I'll continue buying OneVanilla cards as long as it makes sense to do so, while being sure not to carry more than I can comfortably unload without Walmart, should the situation there suddenly worsen.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from readers: have you noticed any patterns in your recent OneVanilla successes and failures?