What are Prepaid Visa and Mastercard Gift Cards? Prepaid cards and gift cards sound alike, since you can stash money on each of them. However they have some key differences. First of all, prepaid cards are winning the popularity contest. The cards, which are reloadable, are adding more prepaid gift balance register card, even though you may pay dearly for the privilege. Meanwhile, gift certificates, which are generally for more limited one-time uses but have few fees, are losing favor, Mercator Advisory Group says.
“Gift cards have limited functionality and are very straightforward,” says Aleia Van Dyke, an investigation consultant at Javelin Strategy and Research. “But prepaid cards are definitely more complicated and multifunctional.” She expects gift cards to eventually fall from the wayside as prepaid cards grow in popularity, together with their uses. Right now, both cards get some overlap simply because they can both be utilized to control spending. “They can be quite a bank checking account alternative,” Van Dyke says.
Here are some key differences to know when shopping for either card. Prepaid Gift Card Flexibility. Gift certificates are usually restricted to purchases at a retailer, says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Typically, big retailers – as well as smaller ones in departmental stores – provide the cards for purchases at those locations. The cards are great deals for the buyer or even the recipient, says McBride. The reason: A $100 gift card means $100 of buying power.
“So you have a whole lot more flexibility within your spending,” adds Harrine Freeman, a monetary counselor at Maryland-based H.E. Freeman Enterprises. Nevertheless they are more inclined to carry fees, according to CreditCards.com, which can be belonging to Bankrate.
You can also easily buy, sell or trade gift certificates online, Freeman says. And after the Charge Card Act was passed in 2009, gift card expirations were extended to five years following the activation date. On the downside, gift certificates can be overly simple. They often don’t have account management tools and can be utilized just once, Van Dyke says.
Conversely, McBride says, prepaid cards can be used as an array of transactions such as making withdrawals from ATMs. To enable them to sometimes be utilized as banking account substitutes, which is why their popularity is quickly rising. Prepaid cards can also be loaded online or at retail locations.
A lot more banks, such as PNC, U.S. Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co., offer their particular prepaid cards, according to the Consumers Union. The cards are usually very easy to get simply because you don’t need a banking account or perhaps a credit history.
People counting their pennies can use prepaid cards as budgeting tools by loading vacation funds onto them, McBride says. Some prepaid cards also provide online bill pay, which could save consumers money, based on Consumers Union. If you want to collect points for shopping, some prepaid cards even offer rewards programs. “But I’ve never seen a gift card which offers rewards,” Van Dyke says.
Prepaid Cards Fees. For your budget-minded, gift cards normally have only low or no fees. However, prepaid card fees vary widely and can quickly ding you. “Some prepaid cards work like good atm cards, since they have low fees or waived fees,” Javelin’s Van Dyke says. “However, in the event you select the wrong card, you can end up having a lot of fees.”
McBride says by far the most prevalent prepaid fees are activation fees, ATM access fees and monthly service fees. In accordance with Bankrate’s 2014 Prepaid Card Survey, 83 percent of the cards surveyed charged monthly maintenance fees. And 53 percent have activation fees, which range from $2.95 to $9.95. Unlike gift certificates, www.prepaidgiftcardbalance.com register that sit unused in a drawer uryelx start logging fees. “So, you really have to evaluate how you’ll be utilizing the credit card,” McBride says.
Gift cards which can be lost or stolen may mean the consumer loses out. “A thief can access each of the money on the card,” says Freeman. However, if you’ve registered the credit card, you may get a few of your money back, however, you may also be charged a fee, she says. One caveat: Gift cards issued with Visa or MasterCard logos are protected by bank card laws. And state laws governing gift certificates may also add a layer of protection, including requiring more disclosures or the right to redeem a card for money, based on the Consumers Union.
Prepaid cards may offer more consumer protections than gift certificates, but rules vary. Often times, fraud protections are just “vaguely defined,” based on the Consumers Union report. And prepaid card protections can be voluntarily withdrawn at any time.