What are Prepaid Visa and Mastercard Gift Cards? Prepaid cards and gift certificates sound alike, since you can stash money on each of them. Nevertheless they have some key differences. To begin with, prepaid cards are winning the popularity contest. The cards, which are reloadable, are adding more www prepaidgiftbalance, even though you may pay dearly for the privilege. Meanwhile, gift cards, which can be for more limited one-time uses but have few fees, are losing favor, Mercator Advisory Group says.
“Gift cards have limited functionality and therefore are very straightforward,” says Aleia Van Dyke, a research consultant at Javelin Strategy and Research. “But prepaid cards tend to be 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, the 2 cards have some overlap because they can both be used to control spending. “They can be a bank account alternative,” Van Dyke says.
Below are a few key differences to find out when searching for either card. Prepaid Gift Card Flexibility. Gift certificates are usually restricted to purchases with a retailer, says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Typically, big retailers – and also smaller ones in departmental stores – provide you with the cards for purchases at those locations. The cards are great deals for that buyer or perhaps the recipient, says McBride. The reason: A $100 gift card results in $100 of purchasing power.
“So there is a much more flexibility in your spending,” adds Harrine Freeman, a monetary counselor at Maryland-based H.E. Freeman Enterprises. But they are more inclined to carry fees, according to CreditCards.com, which can be belonging to Bankrate.
You can even easily buy, sell or trade gift certificates online, Freeman says. And following the Credit CARD Act was passed in 2009, gift card expirations were extended to five years right after the activation date. On the downside, gift certificates can be overly simple. They generally don’t have account management tools and may be used just once, Van Dyke says.
Conversely, McBride says, prepaid cards can be used an array of transactions including making withdrawals from ATMs. To allow them to sometimes be used as banking accounts substitutes, which explains why their popularity is quickly rising. Prepaid cards also can be loaded online or at retail locations.
More and more banks, including PNC, U.S. Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co., offer their very own prepaid cards, based on the Consumers Union. The cards are generally simple to get simply because you don’t need to have a banking account or a credit score.
People counting their pennies can use prepaid cards as budgeting tools by loading vacation funds onto them, McBride says. Some prepaid cards offer free online bill pay, which could save consumers money, according to Consumers Union. In order to collect points for shopping, some prepaid cards even offer rewards programs. “But I’ve never seen a present card that offers rewards,” Van Dyke says.
Prepaid Cards Fees. For that budget-minded, gift cards will often have only low or no fees. However, prepaid card fees vary widely and will quickly ding you. “Some prepaid cards work like good debit cards, given that they have low fees or waived fees,” Javelin’s Van Dyke says. “However, in the event you select the wrong card, you might end up with lots of fees.”
McBride says probably the most prevalent prepaid fees are activation fees, ATM access fees and monthly service fees. Based on Bankrate’s 2014 Prepaid Card Survey, 83 percent in the cards surveyed charged monthly maintenance fees. And 53 percent have activation fees, ranging from $2.95 to $9.95. Unlike gift certificates, www.prepaidgiftbalance.com balance that sit unused in a drawer uryelx start logging fees. “So, you need to evaluate how you’ll be employing the credit card,” McBride says.
Gift certificates that are lost or stolen may mean the consumer loses out. “A thief has access to all of the money on the card,” says Freeman. However, if you’ve registered the card, you might get some of your money back, however, you may also be charged a fee, she says. One caveat: Gift certificates issued with Visa or MasterCard logos are protected by charge card laws. And state laws governing gift certificates can also add a layer of protection, including requiring more disclosures or the legal right to redeem a card for money, in accordance with the Consumers Union.
Prepaid cards may offer more consumer protections than gift cards, but rules vary. Often, fraud protections are merely “vaguely defined,” based on the Consumers Union report. And prepaid card protections could be voluntarily withdrawn anytime.