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When a clerk at Target told Annette Tierney her she could save 5% on her purchases by opening a Target REDcard debit card, it was a no-brainer. “Every time we go in there we get a cart full of stuff,” she explains. “We usually spend $250 to $500.”

It also seemed simple enough—the store’s debit card is set up to draw from a customer’s existing checking account.  She was shocked, though, when her application for the card was declined.

Since she and her husband avoid debt and have “great credit,” her first thought that was that perhaps they had been victims of identity theft. But when she called the customer service number provided, she was told her application was declined due to a lack of check writing history with Target. She told the representative that she uses a bank debit card when she shops at Target, but the representative wouldn’t budge. She was told she’d have to first establish a check writing history with Target to be considered for the card.

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Tierney’s situation raises the question: Can you get turned down for a debit card? On the surface, it would seem that the answer would be “no,” or at least not likely, since the card is only used to access the money you already have in your bank account. But, in fact, you can be turned down for a debit card, though the reason is most often due to prior checking account problems.

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That’s what Rosalie Zamora found out when her application to open a Target REDcard debit card was declined.  “I received a ‘regret’ notice indicating that there was some negative reporting from a reporting agency called ‘Certegy’,” she said in an email to Credit.com. Certegy provides check authorization and guarantee services to merchants and businesses nationwide, and is considered a specialty consumer reporting agency under federal law.

[Related article: How to Get Your Free Reports from Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies]

Zamora called Certegy and was told there was no negative information on file for her. She was then referred to another consumer reporting agency, Telecheck, which found an unpaid debt from “ACCS Bad Check Restitution.” When she called that company, she found out that her information had been mixed up with that of someone who previously bounced a check:

I was sent 3 letters of apology stating that a clerk at a store keyed in a driver’s license number incorrectly for someone cashing a $50 dollar check a few years ago that bounced. That driver’s license (number) ended up being mine and went on my record. They say that they have unlinked my driver’s license to that case and I should be good to go now.

Tierney, on the other hand, still doesn’t understand why she can’t get the card. The debit card application states that “Target may gather any information considered necessary and appropriate, including consumer reports,” however it makes no specific mention of requiring consumers to have a check-writing history at the store.

“They didn’t (admit) it was a ridiculous excuse,” she fumed.

She’s since sent email complaints to members of Target’s executive board. I shared with her that I was surprised by her story because I opened a Target REDcard debit card last year and, to my knowledge, I have never written a check at Target.

Target officials declined to comment for this story.

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Tierney speculates that Target would rather have her sign up for its credit card than the debit card. “I feel like they are using this great advertising campaign, but I feel like what they really want is for people to use their credit card. They want to push American consumers deeper and deeper into debt. That’s just my theory,” she says.

And even though Zamora’s check-writing history has been cleared, she didn’t appeal the decision with Target. “Forget it,” she says. “I’m done with Target. Although it’s not their fault, this issue left a bad taste in my mouth.”

[Related Article: Target REDcards Give You a 5% Discount: But At What Cost?]

Image: Mr. T in DC, via Flickr

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  • Christopher

    I tried to sign up for a Target Debit Red Card about 3 weeks ago, and they wouldn’t accept my Passport as valid ID to open the account. They would accept only a driver’s license or a military ID card. I live in the city without a car, and don’t have a driver’s license, so no more Target for me!

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Interesting Christopher. I wonder if they can check a consumer report more easily with the driver’s license number?

      • Christopher

        Oh, they still asked for my SSN.

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  • Pamela

    I always used my debit card and got checks just so that I could apply for the Target debit card. It was accepted and my card arrived in the mail last week. I used it twice instore last week with no problems. Now today it came up not accepted when I tried to make an instore purchase. We tried it twice and got the same results.

    So after reading this blog I assume Target has taken away my debit card priviliges for not having a check writing history.

    I was livid at having to get the paper checks to apply, I certainly will not begin to use them as payment so that I can keep the card.

    This is ridiculous. I have been using my bank debit card heavily for the past 10 years, never keeping track of payments and never overdrawing.

    Chistopher, I do not have a driver’s license either but my state ID was accepted for the application. I don’t know why they wouldn’t accept a passport because I used one of those for years for banking purposes before I got the state ID at the registry.

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Actually, Pamela, I think yours is likely a different issue. They reserve the right to limit or reject REDcard debit card purchases and other readers have complained that happened to them. In your case, because the card is fairly new they may be limiting them to make sure the purchases you have made are honored by your financial institution. But others have complained this has happened to them for no rhyme or reason. It does make you wonder about the “Save 5% everyday” promise!

      • Pamela

        Gerri, thanks for your reply. I hope that is the case that they are limiting my purchases for now. That is what the cashier suggested what must be the problem.

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  • Zinnia

    I am a cashier at Target. I have never had a problem with people opening a debit card..as long as they have a valid checking account and social security number.. That’s not saying that there aren’t glitches in the system.. There have been guests who have gotten the debit card, but when they try to use it gets rejected.. I have gotten yelled at about it even though store employees aren’t privy to any of the information.
    I know that once there is a problem, it seems to be almost impossible to correct. I feel bad for the people that it happens to, because the redcard debit is a nice savings.

    I also wish there was a way for people to open the debit card with some other form of ID then a social security number.. Such as a passport

  • Ben

    Target debit card isn’t a debit card as a bank debit card it’s more of a way for them to do a direct with draw from your account as in when you pay with check they use these check company to see if you have ever bounce any checks. Target basically stores your account an then does a direct with draw as they would so with a check electronic check transfer. If you apply and get approve start with small purchase and over Time you would be able to make bigger purchase. It’s a hassle but target sucks anyways

  • a guy

    I work with target as a cashier (Only because of my current economics) and I have to say if we ever ask you for a debit card or credit card flat out say no or run the other way. There are lots of hidden fees that we are not allowed to mention and we are only suppose to push the 5% discount and free online shipping which isn’t very good at all (where I live it doesn’t even cover tax) Target “team members” are judged by how many redcard accounts we help open “to help save a guest 5% ” so it makes it so that the cashiers will lie about how much of a great deal it is. If you don’t believe me ask a cashier what the penalty fee is on the debit card or what the Annual Percentage Rate of the credit card is, most of them will instantly say “I don’t know” or will go for the red card application to look it up. Also ask them if them about the additional 5% on the pharmacy program and if it expires and again you will get the same reaction. (Hint hint it does if you don’t use it within a certain number of days) Overall never EVER trust the target RedCard or Debit Card from them.

    • Jason

      Hidden fees? Such as….? I understand what a penalty fee is…its like writing a bad check and getting it returned. But can you prove any other fees on the Debit Card?

      • Kyle

        He obviously either doesn’t like target or doesn’t work for them. I work at Guest Service in the Burleson, TX store, and there are no fees for a Target Debit card, it works just as your bank card except you will get 5% off your purchase and team members can use their discount on top of it. Now the Credit card obviously has fees if you don’t pay off your balance every month. I myself use a Target Debit Card for my purchases, never had a problem…

  • beth

    I go to target for absolutely everything! I have applied god knows how many times for a target debit card. I keep getting turned down and each time I am sent a letter from a company called certegy so I call them and they say something negative is on my account? Makes no sense at all. I used to have a target credit card and paid it off and cancelled it. They said they cleared whatever it was that was negative and that I could apply and should go through. I tried to apply again yesterday and still want approved! How am I not getting approved for a debit card??? Makes no sense at all. Now I’m tempted to just take my business elsewhere bc I could have saved quite a bit by now

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I have a friend who has gone through the same thing and can’t figure out how to fix it. Target needs to find a way to help (and keep) these customers.

  • Jason

    I just got a Red Debit Card and have used it 4 times. So now I’m online trying to buy an iPad and I get the “We are sorry that we cannot accept this Target Debit Card transaction. Our decision was based on information from: CERTEGY” I called Target.com and Red Card Customer Service. CS was a joke. They just transferred me. So there’s a new dept who is supposedly looking into it. Im guessing that I just don’t have the transaction history. So now I just may go to Best Buy and get my iPad. Instead of saving 5% and paying for faster shipping, I’ll get my 2.5% Reward Zone and just pick it up. I’ll still use my card for groceries and regular stuff.

  • Michael O’Connell

    Target Debit Card Application was not approved. The application requested a voided check with the bank that i have a checking account. After Certegy said no negative info and they checked by phone with Target and said they had no negative info and they suggested I call Target at 800 831 7764. Very polite telephone ops. After repeating bank account information for the third time they said the number was incorrect on the application. Very sorry and they will correct error and send letter to be received in 7 10 days. After I receive the red debit card and will then cancel it. Target needs major management help at my local store that is a large investment. I am selling my stock on Monday.

  • shnllann

    I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that there was not an inquiry to any of your credit bureaus because a consumer report and credit report are 2 completely separate things. Your consumer report monitors things like check history and utility history as well as personal info like addresses and phone numbers.

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