The Basics

Apparently, A Passport Is Not Good Enough ID To Buy Gift Cards

passport photo
Written by Charlie

On a recent trip to buy gift cards, I ran into some “identification issues” and found that apparently a passport is not good enough as ID – at least for this store.

Shortly before the end of so many of our Bluebird/Serve cards, I was in the US and did something I had not done in a while – I went into OfficeMax to buy gift cards. Since I am not in the US much, most of my gift cards are bought online and it has been some time since I actually bought them in an office supply store. Not sure if the policy there was new, but I certainly learned something new!

Apparently, A Passport Is Not Good Enough ID To Buy Gift Cards

Those of us with Chase Ink products like to buy gift cards at office supply store because we get 5X Ultimate Reward points per dollar, essentially wiping out the card fee and still giving us some value. In the days of Bluebird, it was easy enough to load those and keep on moving. When I used to buy at OfficeMax, I would buy a couple thousand and them drive next door to the WalMart to load them and be done with it. It used to be just that easy.

“A Passport Is Not A Valid Form Of Identification For Us”

passport photo

Good enough to cross borders but not to buy gift cards!

But this time, I was in Ohio (not my home state of NY) and popped in the OfficeMax to take advantage of a deal they were running that wiped out the fees and gave me $5 free (cannot remember what the amount was – maybe a $20 discount per $300 spent?). The limit was 2 of the offer so I grabbed $600 in prepaid Visa gift cards and went to pay. The cashier was very friendly and she went ahead and tore off the back, scanned them, and then gave me my total.

However, before she would let me pay, she said she would need to see my ID (those fraudsters that are misusing these cards ruining everything for us again!). I showed her my NYS driver’s license and she asked where that was from. I told her it was from New York State and she said she would have to have a manager come for approval. When the manager got there, she said that I could not purchase the gift cards because they do not accept out-of-state driver’s licenses for identification purposes – “store policy.” I remembered having done the same thing a couple of years before in Utah without any problem so I just figured times have changed and I would roll with it.

So, I pulled out my passport which I had on me and gave that to her. She said, “I’m sorry, a passport is not a valid form of identification for us either.” In a game of forms of ID, I was pretty sure that a passport trumped everything else out there – just check any form that asks for a primary form of ID and a passport will be there just like a driver’s license. I asked her if it was because it did not have the address on it (just trying to figure it out) and she said it wasn’t that, it just wasn’t a valid form to use for ID when buying gift cards.

At this point, I was a little frustrated – this is only $600 in gift cards! I asked her what I was supposed to do and she finally said that they could call a special Chase verification number to make sure my card was valid and had enough limit on it to handle the spending (never had this happen before either). They called the number and, surprise, the card was good to go! 🙂

She swiped it – and it was declined. Thanks to Chase and their fast verification, I instantly got an e-mail asking if I made that purchase. A quick “YES” and we ran it again and it worked. Done! Since this took about 15 minutes, I thought I would try to learn something through this trip so asked the manager what amount triggers this certain ID thing. She said it was $500 because “people use these for fraud and for stolen credit cards.”

Again, it has been a while since I bought these in-store, so I am not sure if this is OfficeMax/OfficeDepot stores everywhere or did I just find a gem of a location? Ever had someone decline a passport as not a valid form of identification? It just seemed funny/strange to me that the only ID people want in other countries when I used my credit card is my passport but that apparently doesn’t work at OfficeMax – at least this one.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Once I was driving through Ohio, I stopped at a kwik fill, to buy a lighter. I was carded for the lighter , all I had was my passport, and they said it’s not a valid form of Id. Pretty sure this lady just wasn’t very smart though (clearly)

    • I had been buying short-release, high priced camera lenses for resale. Places like B&H Photo let you use up to 3 forms of payment. Many people have moved on to money orders but there are many cautions with those (check out the post this week on Travel Codex)

  • Once upon a time, at LAX immigrations, the DHS officer did not like my passport and asked for a second form of ID. I was ready for a long, passive-aggressive dealing (figuring I’d have more patience and time), but my California drivers license was good enough for him. The whole process didn’t take two minutes. In-state drivers license trumped passport.

      • So the detail I left out was that my passport photo (renewal every ten years) did not resemble me as much as the drivers license (renewal every five years). I still consider it a juicy story.

  • Most Americans don’t have passports. She probably didn’t know what it was nor what it looked like. Who knows. Sorry that you experienced that though.

    • That is a good point as well. Just surprised that the manager/supervisor didn’t know. I remember years ago an OfficeMax I used to frequent often had in their bathroom guide sheets for how to identify fraudulent checks – but it was in the bathroom so how many people may remember those things? 🙂

  • No, the ultimate form of ID is a Concealed Carry License / Permit. 1 Background check with Local Law Enforcement. 1 Background check with State Law Enforcement, and 1 Background check with the Federal Law Enforcement. The Sheriff of your county has to review your application personally and sign the internal paperwork by hand…

    And you no where accepts it as a form of ID. However with how my wallet is set up, you see both of them at checkout and I have been told on numerous occasions where a manager is involved that although it is not an acceptable form of ID, it made them feel a lot better about letting me buy 2-3K of gift cards. Go figure…

    I still say the problem with this country is the OLD people, the ones in legislation that don’t change or keep up, and the OLD people in high positions that make decisions, yet don’t know how to reset their email password… Drives me crazy that people get so set in their ways and don’t want to learn something new… What is that concealed thingy? Never heard of it! Get lost!