Why can’t I redeem my Verizon gift card?

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By Christopher Elliott

Try as hard as he might, Daniel Conti can’t redeem his $200 Verizon gift card.

He’s called Verizon. He’s written. And he’s chatted online. But the card won’t work.

“I am appalled,” he told me. “This is Verizon, for heaven’s sake. I expected much better.”

But Conti’s problem is common. This year, Verizon has issued tens of thousands of gift cards that don’t work. 

So I had to ask:

  • How do gift cards actually work?
  • What if your gift card doesn’t work?
  • What are the steps to resolving a non-working gift card?

Whether you have a dud Verizon gift card or any gift card that you can’t activate, you’ll want to stay tuned for the answer.

He wanted to cut the cord until …

Contin’s problem started in early January when he received his Verizon bill. Conti has four cell phones and a landline that delivers FiOS, Verizon’s bundled internet access, telephone and television service. 

“We were paying too much per month, and I was considering cutting the cord,” says Conti. “I telephoned Verizon to discuss my service and account.”

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A customer service representative reviewed Conti’s bill and recommended a new monthly plan and channel lineup. 

“We decided to keep our FiOS service — for the time being,” he says.

Part of the incentive was a $200 gift card. The representative even offered to apply the $200 toward Conti’s next phone bill.

And redeeming the card should have been extra simple. Under his bill, where it said, “View an Estimate of your Bill,” he should have seen the $200 Verizon gift card. 

Only he didn’t.

Why is he unable to use this Verizon gift card?

Conti’s Verizon gift card came with a few strings attached, as corporate gift cards often do. Here are the requirements the company sent him:

  • Must install and maintain the service in good standing for 65 days.
  • Register for the gift card for 60 days after or no later than 7-1-23, whichever is first.
  • Gift card emailed with 48 hours of registration. 

(The last one was for Verizon, and I think they meant to say “within.”)

One other thing you have to know: Conti has been a Verizon customer for the last 17 years, and he’s never missed a payment.

“We are currently on autopay, so it is impossible for our payment to be late,” he says.

After 65 days, Conti logged into his account to redeem his $200 gift card.

“I was unable to do so,” he recalls. “I initiated a chat with Verizon. A customer service representative told me I could not redeem the offer because there was an amount pending for payment on my account.”

So is that it? Does Verizon get to break its promises and get away with it? 

Not if Conti has something to say about it.

Verizon: Please stand by!

Conti was puzzled. He always paid his bills in full when they were due. But he remembered that sometimes when he looked at his balance after paying, he would still see an amount due until the next bill, when it would disappear.

“The customer service representative told me to wait until the bill was fully paid and assured me at that time I would be able to register and redeem the gift card — “‘guaranteed,’ they told me,” he says.

So a few weeks later, Conti returned to his account, and sure enough, his bill had been paid in full. 

“I went into my online account, registered for the card, and was advised I would receive an email with the card,” he says. “No email ever arrived.”

What the heck is going on?

Verizon gift cards have been problematic. Going as far back as 2016, customers have reported that the company’s gift cards were difficult or impossible to redeem.

In one case documented on Verizon’s online forums, a customer bought two gift cards as Christmas gifts.

“When I checked my first gift card balance, the system said ‘invalid card,'” the customer reported.

Like Conti, the customer tried to call Verizon and also initiated an online chat. 

“But nothing has happened so far,” the customer added.

Conti also spoke with a Verizon representative who, in a moment of candor, admitted that thousands of other Verizon customers had gift cards that didn’t work.

I find that shocking. I mean, here’s a $33 billion company with a history of gift card problems that seems to be brushing off a systemic problem. Come on!

How gift cards work

To understand what is happening behind the scenes, you need to know how a gift card works. 

Think of a gift card as a prepaid debit card. Either you fund it by paying the company, or the company funds it (which is what happened in Conti’s case). The amount on the card represents a dollar value stored in the company’s database.

Gift cards contain several safeguards to ensure everyone stays honest. That may include a barcode, encoded chip or magnetic stripe. Digital gift cards have a unique number that is necessary in order to redeem the card, but businesses can also issue a gift card as a credit directly to your account. After examining his transactions, it appears Conti’s gift card was a form of Verizon store credit rather than a traditional electronic gift card.

But gift cards are also a real headache for consumers. They are often scams, as this popular $1,000 Walmart gift card offer was. Sometimes, the value of a gift card just disappears, as it did for this MGM gift card.

And in my opinion, gift cards benefit the company far more than the customer. Here are my reasons.

The question is, would this gift card just disappear like the others? Before we find out, let’s figure out how to redeem your gift card.

How to get your gift card to work

There are steps you can take to make your gift card work.

Double-check the number and CVV

If you’re trying to type in a gift card number and it doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ve missed a digit. Be sure to double-check the gift card number and CVV (the three-digit security code on the back of the card). The numbers are long and easy to mess up. Try entering them again.

Try an alternative method

Some merchants will allow you to activate or redeem your gift card by phone. You can call to activate your card and use it. 

Call for help

Large companies have separate departments that help customers activate and use their gift cards. Verizon, for example, has a gift card team. You can call (800) 876-4141 or dial #GIFT from your wireless device. Note: Verizon will connect you to an automated system, but pressing “0” will connect you to a real person.

Alas, none of those methods worked for Conti. It was time to call in the big guns. (Here’s how to resolve your own consumer issues.)

How Verizon resolved this gift card problem

Conti used the Elliott Method to self-advocate his problem. He kept a paper trail and waited patiently for Verizon to address his problem. But it never did.

I reviewed the correspondence between Conti and Verizon. He did everything correctly — he kept his emails short and polite and directed them to the right person. He could have appealed to one of the Verizon customer service contacts we list on this site. 

Enough was enough. I contacted Verizon on Conti’s behalf. 

A few days later, he emailed me with good news:

Thank you for all your help.

I did receive a call from the Verizon executive office yesterday, where they acknowledged that over 50,000 customers are experiencing the same issue with this gift card promotion.

She apologized and advised that within two weeks, I would be receiving an email with the gift card information that should resolve the problem.

And two weeks later, Conti had the information and cashed in the $200 on his card. For the rest of us, the lesson is clear: If a company promises you a gift card, don’t say thanks until you redeem it.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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