HONOLULU (KHON2) — By many accounts, the launch of the Hawaii Restaurant Card, which gives residents unemployed due to COVID-19 $500 debit cards to spend only at restaurants, bakeries, and caterers in the state, has been a big success.
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New posts online soliciting cards for sale are prompting organizers to issue warnings that the cards are not to be sold or bought. Officials say the card is not meant to be used as currency, but instead to help families and Hawaii’s restaurants in need. Solicitation of the card can get privileges revoked.
“Selling discards for cash is not in the spirit of the economic stimulus program to help the restaurant industry and the entire food supply chain,” Program Card Administrator Gwen Yamamoto Lau said.
When a cardholder makes a purchase, identification may be required.
“I really want to discourage people from buying and selling these cards,” Yamamoto Lau said. “We received confirmation from our card issuer that as a government program these non-transferable prepaid debit cards can be defunded and deactivated upon evidence such as a Facebook or Craigslist posting that our cardholder is trying to transfer the card. Therefore, buyers beware.”
These cards cannot be used at grocery stores, despite some claims online that said people were using them at Costco to buy various items. Yamamoto Lau says the merchant codes of the establishment control where the cards are valid.
“Monday morning, we received a list of approximately 1,000 businesses that were rejected with rejected Hawaii Restaurant Card transactions over the weekend. And this included rejected transactions for 52 cardholders who try to use their card at Costco on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai,”
The cards are not redeemable at Costco food court locations, as Yamamoto Lau says the merchant code is the same as retail.
Restaurants, bakeries, and caterers are encouraged to make sure their merchant codes are up to date so they can accept the Hawaii Restaurant Card.
The cards can not be used to purchase alcohol, even at restaurants.
“Restaurants have issued a separate check for alcohol purchases and individuals must have another payment source to pay for these beverages,” Yamamoto Lau said.
As of Oct. 20, organizers report that about 50,000 cards have been activated and $1,700,000 has been spent at local eateries.