A web of state laws, retailers, card policies restrict or ban the practice.
While credit cards are used to buy everything from human skeletons to celebrity encounters these days, the winner of the next big lottery drawing will likely purchase a paper ticket, in person, with cash.
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.
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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 CongaLotto.com 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
In many cases, though, the decision about whether to accept credit card lies ultimately with lottery ticket retailers and even credit card issuers. Several of the states that allow credit card payment for lottery tickets ultimately leave it up to retailers to determine acceptable payment methods.
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.’”
State rules for buying lottery tickets with credit cards
|State||Credit cards accepted for lottery purchases?|
|Alabama||No. Lottery not allowed in state|
|Alaska||No. No in-state lottery.|
|Arizona||Yes. Cash, credit cards, debit cards, money orders or travelers checks are accepted payments. Buying tickets with a credit card is at the discretion of the individual retailer.|
|Arkansas||No. According to the state’s FAQs page, all sales of tickets are for cash, debit card or other noncash, nondeferred forms of payment such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet apps. Payment by check, credit card, charge card or any form of deferred payment is prohibited.|
|California||Yes, but credit or debit cards can be used to buy lottery tickets only at Play at the Pump gas stations and via LottoGopher.com (for a fee).|
|Colorado||No. Tickets must be sold on a cash-only basis. “Cash-only” includes checks, money orders and debit cards. Retailers may have different a different policy regarding accepting checks and debit cards for purchase.|
|Connecticut||No, but you can use debit cards to buy lottery tickets, depending on the retailer.|
|Georgia||No for credit cards. Yes for PIN-based debit cards, but that is up to the retailer and the retailer may pass on transaction fees.|
|Hawaii||No. Lottery not allowed in state.|
|Idaho||Yes, and debit.|
|Illinois||Yes. You also can purchase tickets online at the Illinois Lottery website. You can use Visa, Mastercard or Discover credit or debit cards to pay for your online purchase.|
|Indiana||Maybe. Acceptance of credit or debit cards for lottery ticket purchases is at the discretion of the retailer. According to the Hoosier Lottery, most retailers do not accept debit or credit cards due to the fees associated with the transactions.|
|Iowa||No. Credit cards may not be used to purchase lottery tickets. Lottery tickets can be purchased from lottery retailers with cash, debit cards and checks in accordance with payment policies at the particular location involved.|
|Kansas||Maybe. The Kansas Lottery’s website says it has no prohibition against using a credit card or debit card for lottery purchases. Whether to allow purchases of lottery products with a debit or credit card is left to the discretion of each store.|
|Kentucky||Yes. You can purchase lottery tickets via credit or debit card via Kentucky Lottery’s iWallet, according to the state’s lottery site. Minimum iWallet deposit is $10. However, not all lottery retail locations will take credit or debit cards as payment for lottery due to fees they may need to pay for the transaction, the Kentucky Lottery says.|
|Louisiana||Maybe. It depends on retailer. The Louisiana Lottery website states: Even though regulations allow credit cards to be used to purchase lottery tickets, retailers can decide what form of payment they will accept and some do not accept credit cards to buy lottery tickets.|
|Maine||Maybe. It is at the discretion of the retailer. The Maine Lottery subscription play service does not allow payment with credit cards.|
|Maryland||No. Cash, debit, check and money orders are accepted as payment.|
|Massachusetts||No, but season ticket lottery tickets can be bought using Visa, Mastercard or Discover credit cards.|
|Minnesota||No. Minnesota permits retailers selling lottery tickets to accept coin, currency, money orders and checks for the payment of lottery tickets, but retailers can choose not to accept checks or debit cards for lottery tickets.|
|Mississippi||No. Lottery not allowed in state.|
|Missouri||Maybe. Each retail location is free to accept or refuse debit or credit cards for lottery purchases. For example, Missouri is a state that allows Pay at the Pump lottery purchases with credit cards.|
|Montana||No. Credit cards also cannot be used to purchase lottery tickets online.|
|Nebraska||Maybe. It depends on retailer.|
|Nevada||No. No in-state lottery.|
|New Hampshire||No, not online or in person.|
|New Jersey||No, but debit cards are OK.|
|New Mexico||No, cash or check only.|
|New York||Maybe. It depends on retailer.|
|North Carolina||No. Acceptable forms of payment include cash, check, debit card and gift card at the retailer’s discretion. In North Carolina, only debit cards can be used for Play at the Pump.|
|North Dakota||No. A credit card cannot be used to buy lottery tickets. Depending on store policy, the retailer may allow a check or debit card for the purchase of tickets, according to the state’s FAQs page.|
|Ohio||Yes. Also, Ohio Lottery self-service ticket vending machines now accept cash and credit and debit cards.|
|Oklahoma||No. Lottery purchases are cash-only transactions.|
|Oregon||Yes, and debit.|
|Pennsylvania||Maybe. It depends on retailer. According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, while most lottery retailers accept only cash for games, there is no law barring the use of credit or debit cards to pay for lottery tickets.|
|South Carolina||No. All lottery tickets must be paid for with cash.|
|South Dakota||Maybe. It depends on the retailer.|
|Tennessee||No. Under Tennessee law, lottery tickets can only be purchased with cash.|
|Texas||No. Texas law prohibits purchase of lottery tickets by credit cards or food stamps. Retailers, at their own discretion, may accept a check for tickets. Retailers can accept a debit card for payment.|
|Utah||No. Lottery not allowed in state.|
|Virginia||No. You can purchase lottery games with cash, debit, and prepaid gift cards (like Visa and Mastercard). Under the Virginia Lottery law, you cannot play games with credit cards. You may want to check with your local retailer about debit. Some have store policies that do not allow debit for lottery games.|
|Washington||Maybe. It depends on retailer. According to the Washington Lottery: Many of our retailers allow you to purchase tickets with debit or credit cards, and some will only take cash. Many of our retailers have lottery ticket vending machines in their stores that only take cash.|
|Washington, D.C.||No, cash only.|
|Wisconsin||No. By law, lottery tickets in Wisconsin may only be purchased with cash.|
|Wyoming||No, and no debit either.|
|Source: CreditCards.com research, December 2017|
See related: States limit welfare, food stamp debit cards to ban “sin” purchases, 10 things you can’t (easily) buy with credit cards