can you use debit card to buy lottery tickets

Buy lottery tickets with a credit card? Probably not

A web of state laws, retailers, card policies can all restrict the practice

October 30, 2013


A web of state laws, retailers, card policies restrict or ban the practice.

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Lottery ticket sales are banned by law in many states and even where you can buy them, credit cards are often forbidden as a way to buy them, either by state law or by the banks themselves. Just 20 states allow lottery purchases with credit cards, and seven of those leave the decision up to retailers. (See chart below: “State rules for buying lottery tickets with a credit card.”)

Want to buy a Powerball ticket online? Odds are you can’t – legally, anyway. According to the official Powerball website, most of the states in the Powerball network, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands all forbid online Powerball ticket sales on official state lottery sites, Those that do permit such transactions still require purchasers to be within same-state boundaries. If your state isn’t in the Powerball network, you might have to travel to a participating state to make a legal ticket purchase.

State laws set the rules, retailers have sway

Since gambling is regulated by state law, the regulations in your state determine whether you can buy lottery tickets with plastic. In Connecticut, for example, you cannot buy tickets with a credit card. But you can use a gift card or debit card – unless the specific retailer prohibits using debit. In a handful of states, including Tennessee and South Carolina, lottery tickets may only be bought with cash.

Other states, including Pennsylvania and Kansas, leave it up to individual retailers to decide which forms of payment to accept.

More lottery stories

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  • Buy lottery tickets with a credit card? Probably not

Fears of gambling addiction

The main reason for prohibiting the use of credit cards is that compulsive gamblers could accumulate unmanageable debt. Credit counselors warn that this is primarily an issue for people with poor financial self-control.

“If you don’t have enough cash to buy a lottery ticket, you shouldn’t be paying with a credit card,” says Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Irresponsible use of credit can lead to unmanageable debt and the serious consequences that follow. Whether it is fueled by gambling or other factors, overspending is a serious problem that deserves immediate attention.”

Avoid taking cash out of an ATM with your credit card, too.

“If a machine can’t accept credit cards, their next instinct might be to go to an ATM and get a cash advance with their credit card,” said McClary. Because of the high APRs typically associated with credit card cash advance transactions, “You are actually ending up costing yourself more by doing that. It’s a very dangerous move to consider getting a cash advance to pay for a lottery ticket.”

Use caution with online reseller sites

Some businesses are seizing the opportunity to target lottery players who want to use plastic, but may not have that option in their area. Use them with caution when attempting to buy lottery tickets online.

Third-party lottery sale websites such as Nicosia, Cyprus-based allow consumers to purchase lottery tickets online, with credit cards as one of the payment options. They’ll send someone to buy the ticket on your behalf and then hold them. You pay a premium for the service, and you have to trust they’ll pay off.

The Powerball site issues this warning: “There are no regulations of websites that claim to sell tickets or to sell you a ’service’ to buy and hold tickets for you. Many lotteries believe that they would violate state and federal laws if they paid on those tickets purchased (if actually purchased) by an unlicensed reseller.”

Purchase rules vary by state

However, only state lottery organizations and licensed retailers can legally sell lottery tickets in the U.S., and no one can sell lottery tickets across a state border. So, if you are in Alabama trying to buy a ticket online for a lottery in another state, think again. There’s no guarantee your purchase – and even winnings, if your numbers match up – is legitimate.

For other lottery games, some states have begun offering their own online lotto ticket sales to state residents. In 2012, Illinois became the first state to allow online purchases of individual lottery tickets. Since then, many other states, including Minnesota, Georgia and Kentucky, have followed suit. The Kentucky Lottery even offers a mobile app for on-the-go gamblers.

Cards may ban sales, too

Plus, even in states where credit card purchases are allowed by the government and retailers, your card company or issuing bank may have rules of its own. American Express prohibits the use of its cards for gambling services, according to a representative.

Visa and Mastercard declined to comment on their policies regarding lottery ticket purchases, but recommend consumers ask their credit card’s issuing bank for more specific lottery purchase information.

“If the state and retailer allows it, it’s still up to the bank to determine whether they can use their card,” said Steve Kenneally, vice president of American Bankers Association Center for Payments and Cyber Security. Banks have the choice to block lottery transaction that may be lawful, or viewed as too much of a risk or liability by the financial institution. Read your specific cardholder agreement to see if your bank-issued credit card might do this.

“If there is a policy that you cannot use your card for wagering, they will block any transactions that come in noted as such,” Kenneally added. “It’s perfectly legal to block it. The action is actually called ’overblocking.’”

A web of state laws, retailers, card policies restrict or ban the practice ]]>