Why you should be careful about using restaurant gift cards


I was at one of my favorite restaurants over the weekend – Olive Garden (order the chicken parm, load up on salad, take the chicken parm home.  BOOM!) using up those $10 bonus cards.  Anyway when the bill came out to $24 or so, I handed the server the following GCs – 2 x $3, $13, $25.  The $3 and $13 cards were partially used before and I will usually take home the customer slip and I’ll just Sharpie the balance on the card (because who cares really.)


Zero balance

The waiter walks away and comes back and hands me back the cards.  He said the 2 x $3 worked, but the $13 and $25 had no balance.  I eventually paid him with a cc, but later on, called up the Ogizzle to ask wtf happened.  I asked about the $13 first, and the rep told me it was activated for $25 on x date and then used up $25 on z date.  That’s odd cuz why would I write down $13 if I had used it all up?  Two possible reasons could be that the last server a) gave me the wrong card back or b) decided to debit the entire amount instead of what I wrote on the tip.  The $25 card was shown having used up all $25 in one go.  I can’t explain this except maybe I just used it and forgot about it, although I’m pretty diligent about tossing used up gift cards.

Anyway, the one that bothered me the most was the $13 card.  I don’t think it was the wrong card because I’m pretty sure I would make sure the number matched up to the receipt.  The only other explanation is the server decided to overtip himself to max out the card.  Unfortunately I no longer have the receipt, so can’t really tell.  The OGizzle rep told me I’d have to go back to the restaurant to deal with the issue, but a) the person is most likely already gone b) this was used back in 2015, so I doubt they could still pull it up and c) not worth my time.


Lessons Learned

From now on, I’m never paying OVER the bill amount with a gift card.  So if my bill is $60, I’m going to just use a $50 GC and pay the overage on my cc.  If it’s $30, use a $25 GC, etc.  I don’t have the time to go and hunt down missing gift card amounts.  With that said, I never check my cc bills either, but at least I can easily chargeback via cc vs having to go back to the restaurant.  WHY YOU DO ME LIKE THIS OGIZZLE?!?

  • keamima

    Here’s a bigger problem that happened to me, FRAUD. Bought a restaurant gift card from Raise. Of course this GC was sold to Raise by someone. Unfortunately for me that someone used a stolen credit card to buy the gift card at the restaurant. The restaurant found out it was a stolen CC and drained the balance of the GC after I had already received it. It went from $50 to $0. Raise has a 100 day limit or you eat any loss. Thankfully I was within that limit but it was the 90th day when the restaurant drained the card. I had spent only $15 on it. Raise refunded me but I had to jump through hoops to get the restaurant to provide details on the fraud before Raise refunded. Buying from GC sites that are not reselling cards, like GYFT, won’t get you a discount but you’re more protected .

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  • Madmadso

    Had the same thing happen at both PF Changs and the Cheesecake Factory. I actually wrote the balance on the GC. The first one I just thought I mixed something up. At PF Changs I was certain I didn’t because we paid the tip with cash. The server just drained the card as her tip. At that point I just had the sharpie amount written on the card without the receipt. I think your idea of not using partial amounts on GCs is a good one. I think I would forget to check the amount a few days later. Live and learn.

    • Miles per Day

      Yup, live and learn. I think I’ll drain it all besides keeping receipts going forward.

    • Jamie

      If you’re inclined, as a matter of principle, you could certainly get your money back and get that person reprimanded (or whatever). They can’t take a tip out without your signature, and they have to be able to produce that receipt with your signature. I know it’s not always worth the hassle, but when someone’s stolen from you it may be more than the monetary loss that’s a motivation.

  • Mark Ostermann

    That sucks – I have never had that happen and use GC quite often at restaurants. That is what I like about what Chilis is doing though with the tablets they put at the table…lets you check everything out on it and the wait staff doesn’t even touch your stuff unless you pay cash. Also Canada uses portable credit machines and does it right in front of you when paying for your meal – another good idea to combat fraud.

  • pin

    I’m also one of those who wrap the last receipt used on the GC but one time, the receipt was blank! I forgot that thermal paper can be sensitive to heat/light so I may have left my purse somewhere that wiped out the info. lol

    I have a sharpie in my purse all the time and write my GC balance on it including the date. This has become a habit so very rarely do I not know how much $ is left on a WM or Tgt GC.

    • Miles per Day

      Good point. I forgot the ink would fade over time. Better to just drain it all when checking out vs keeping receipts then.

    • Jamie

      Oh, putting the date on it is good, though. That way if there was an issue, they could look it up pretty easily. Vinh’s new approach of always using up each GC fully is more fool proof, but diminishes the GC savings and adds its own hassle factor. Guess this is one more thing to keep in mind when weighing whether a GC discount is big enough.

  • Jamie

    I wrap the receipt around too, but I’m not sure I’m really that careful even then. Like, I could see myself actually losing that receipt before I used the card the second time.

  • Ling Lin

    I had similar experience. So right now, I wrapped the gift card with the receipt. But you know what, even if there is a problem, sometimes it is jus trivial to bring to the manager’s attention.

    • Mike

      I do the same and tell my wife to do the same. Always wrap the receipt around the GC for next time.

      • Miles per Day

        I’m going to start doing that – wrapping the receipts. And prob check the balance after a couple of days to make sure it’s correct. What a hassle.

  • Mike

    Had similar experience at applebees. Followed up with their manager and she sent me a gc to compensate. However, as you said – easier to scam and harder to catch!

    • Miles per Day

      Dang, I have a $100 Applebee’s GC too. Guess I’ll just keep receipt and check it a few days later to make sure they didn’t try to drain it all.

      • Tony

        I am so sorry you have to eat at Applebee’s

        • Miles per Day

          It’s by work and their boneless buffalo wings are semi-edible.