The Problem with Google Play Gift Cards and Why You Should Avoid Them

Written by Ren

12 March 2023


Google Play Gift Cards are pre-paid credits you can use for both in-app purchases and in some cases, buying real-world items. Unfortunately, the convenience factor may be misleading. Many of these cards have been alleged by users as prone to errors when used to redeem their credits.

The cause of these errors is unknown at the time of this writing. What is clear, is that this issue is still happening and affecting many Android users who avail of its services. These users include people who play mobile games published on Google Play. Examples include Genshin Impact, Fate Grand Order, Azur Lane, and Nikke: Goddess of Victory, among others.

Common instances of this credit redemption issue are error messages saying “more information is needed”, according to posts on the Google Play subreddit. This has become a frequent complaint whenever users try to use these cards. As one person I reached out to testified, his transaction failed. This led him to be stuck in several months’ worth of back-and-forth exchanges with Google’s customer service. Almost no resolution was seen until March 2023, and that was only after he reached out to a consumer advocate. According to him, responses to these issues have often been unhelpful and are mainly composed of generic replies.

Google Play Card Problems according to Reddit

To get context on this problem, we need to take a look at places like the Google Play Subreddit. One Redditor Ok_Analysis_1598 mentioned that their card came from a US store, but upon redemption, the above-mentioned error message appeared. Customer services only directed the user to fill out a form with their personal information or return the card to the store. This is not an isolated case, nor is it a new issue, as it has been discussed often in the subreddits during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

In 2021, Redditor italoboy also alleged a similar issue, though this particular problem had the added complication of the card being unusable in their region. This was because the card was bought in the US as well.

As you’ll later see, the user mentioned that their customer service responses offered no real solutions to the problem. They only asked users to submit their account info for review, and wait for a resolution that rarely, if ever, arrives.

Customer Support Is Unhelpful

According to the user I reached out to, he tried to redeem a Google Gift Card worth 25 CAD last December 2022, but an error prevented the amount from being credited to his account. According to him, the card was marked as “redeemed” when he tried to use it, even if this was the first time the card was used.

How does Google often respond?

Google’s replies to this issue were generally unhelpful. As seen in these screenshots, they asked for the receipt and promised an escalation to higher levels of support.

The problem was that after said escalation, the official responses appeared to be excuses as to why the 25 CAD could not be refunded. These ranged from “inconsistencies” in the user’s account, the card being suspected of being bought from an illegitimate seller, and that the user was underage, all of which clearly wasn’t the case according to him.

Other Reddit users have also cited similar responses from Google’s customer service as seen above. While the company has not specified exactly what these irregularities were, the responses were generally the same. Most replies tended to shift the blame to unspecified technical errors and refuse a refund or a resolution.

The user I reached out to pointed out that he eventually obtained a refund by reaching out to CTV News Toronto consumer advocate Pat Foran. While at least this one case was resolved, many more face the same problem and have yet to find a solution to their own issues with Google.

What Should You Do Instead?

Genshin Payment Screen

Avoid using these Google Play Gift Cards whenever possible.

If you need to make in-app purchases on mobile games or any other app in general, using prepaid debit cards or credit cards are usually a safer choice. Not only can you track your purchases, but you also have added layers of user verification like OTPs. MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards have proven to be more reliable for purchases and have strict security measures in place to prevent unauthorized use.

If you’re an active whaler in mobile games like Genshin Impact, Honkai Impact 3, Fate Grand Order or Nikke: Goddess of Victory, using these payment methods are usually a safer option for getting the most out of the pay-to-win experience. You can also link your cards to the Google Play or Apple Account payment services for faster transactions.



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