At one time, if you wanted a Big Mac and fries, you needed to make sure you had a few bucks on you. But like many fast food restaurants, McDonald’s has accepted credit cards for years, whether you make purchases at the drive-thru or in the restaurant. You can even order using the McDonald’s app, paying with your card through your mobile wallet. If you have a Visa gift card, it works like any other Visa card. You simply hand it to the cashier, swipe it or add it to the app and enjoy your meal.
Visa gift cards can be used like any other Visa card, but you might want to check your balance before you order.
Activate Your Card
Take a look at the card. Have you activated it yet? Many Visa gift cards are activated at purchase, so it should be ready to use. But in some cases, you’ll need to activate the card before using it, so check for a sticker with activation instructions. You’ll also need to sign the back since, just like any other Visa card, a savvy cashier will not accept the card for payment without that signature.
Checking Your Balance
Before leaving home for the restaurant, you may want to check the balance on your gift card. If it’s brand new, you probably can skip this step, since it takes a lot of Egg McMuffins to spend a $10, $25 or $50 gift card. If you don’t know the balance, though, there should be information on the back of the card instructing you how to check it. Usually, this means either visiting a website or calling a phone number.
Pay and Enjoy
Your experience at the register will be seamless unless the balance on the card is less than the amount of your purchase. Say you take your friend or family to lunch at your local Golden Arches, and your meals come to $12, while your gift card balance is $10. If you don’t tell the cashier ahead of time, the system will see it as insufficient funds and reject the transaction. For this reason, you should know your balance and tell the cashier once you know the total. The cashier will be able to charge $10 to your gift card and $2 to your other payment method.
Discard the Card
Once you’ve depleted the balance on your card, you should retain the card as long as there are items you might need to return. You won’t return your McDonald’s meal weeks later, of course, but you may have purchased other items on it. If you’re confident you won’t need to return anything, cut up the card and toss it.
- Visa gift cards do not require a PIN number. McDonald's does not require a signature for purchases made with a gift card.
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.