What are Prepaid Visa and Mastercard Gift Certificates? Prepaid cards and gift certificates sound alike, since you can stash funds on each of them. Nevertheless they have some key differences. To begin with, prepaid cards are winning the popularity contest. The cards, which can be reloadable, are adding more https://www.prepaidgiftbalance.site/, even though you may pay dearly for the privilege. Meanwhile, gift cards, 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 they are very straightforward,” says Aleia Van Dyke, a study consultant at Javelin Strategy and Research. “But prepaid cards are definitely more complicated and multifunctional.” She expects gift certificates to eventually fall through the wayside as prepaid cards grow in popularity, with their uses. For now, both cards get some overlap simply because they can both be used to control spending. “They can be a bank checking account alternative,” Van Dyke says.
Here are a few key differences to know when looking for either card. Prepaid Gift Card Flexibility. Gift certificates are generally restricted to purchases at a retailer, says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Typically, big retailers – and also smaller ones in departmental stores – offer the cards for purchases at those locations. The cards are great deals for that buyer or perhaps the recipient, says McBride. The reason why: A $100 gift card means $100 of purchasing power.
“So you have a lot more flexibility within your spending,” adds Harrine Freeman, an economic counselor at Maryland-based H.E. Freeman Enterprises. But they are more likely to carry fees, based on CreditCards.com, that is owned by Bankrate.
You may also easily buy, sell or trade gift cards online, Freeman says. And right after the Charge Card Act was passed during 2009, gift card expirations were extended to five-years right after the activation date. On the downside, gift certificates can be overly simple. They often don’t come with account management tools and may be used just once, Van Dyke says.
Conversely, McBride says, prepaid cards can be used an array of transactions such as making withdrawals from ATMs. So they can sometimes be used as bank account substitutes, which is why their popularity is quickly rising. Prepaid cards can also be loaded online or at retail locations.
Increasingly 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 often very easy to get since you don’t need a banking account or even a credit rating.
People counting their pennies may use prepaid cards as budgeting tools by loading vacation funds onto them, McBride says. Some prepaid cards also provide online for free bill pay, which can 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 great gift card that offers rewards,” Van Dyke says.
Prepaid Cards Fees. For your budget-minded, gift certificates will often have only low or no fees. However, prepaid card fees vary widely and may quickly ding you. “Some prepaid cards work like good atm cards, given that they have low fees or waived fees,” Javelin’s Van Dyke says. “However, in the event you choose the wrong card, you can end up getting a lot of fees.”
McBride says by far the most prevalent prepaid fees are activation fees, ATM access fees and monthly service fees. According to 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 cards, www.prepaidgiftbalancebalance.com that sit unused in a drawer uryelx start logging fees. “So, you need to evaluate how you’ll be using the credit card,” McBride says.
Gift certificates which are lost or stolen may mean the consumer loses out. “A thief has access to all the money on the card,” says Freeman. However, if you’ve registered the credit card, you may get a few of a refund, but you also may be charged a fee, she says. One caveat: Gift cards issued with Visa or MasterCard logos are protected by charge card laws. And state laws governing gift certificates also can put in a layer of protection, including requiring more disclosures or the authority to redeem a card for cash, based on the Consumers Union.
Prepaid cards may offer more consumer protections than gift cards, but rules vary. Often, fraud protections are merely “vaguely defined,” according to the Consumers Union report. And prepaid card protections could be voluntarily withdrawn at any time.