Dec 06, 2011 – Many people don’t understand the nuances of reloadable prepaid cards or how they work. Now, most people ARE familiar with Gift Cards like those you might use at your favorite restaurant or electronics store. Typically, the gift card has the merchant’s logo or some sort of graphic design. These types of cards are referred to in the industry as “Closed Loop” cards since you can only use them with the merchant who offers them. There is another prepaid category that is growing dramatically, and that is General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) or “Open Loop” prepaid debit cards. There are two major distinguishing characteristics of these cards – they can be used almost anywhere and you can continually reload money on them.
Although a great many closed loop gift cards can be reloaded, you more than likely have to load it at a specific retail outlet and use it in their stores. Open loop prepaid cards come with a variety of methods for loading and reloading funds. When you are learning how to get a prepaid card or signing up for one, you need to pay close attention on how the loading process works for that particular card as not all are created equal. There are several different brands available and some might focus on only a few loading methods, while others offer many. Be sure to read each card’s terms and conditions or cardholder agreement before purchasing.
We have outlined the following eight methods used by most prepaid card companies below:
- Direct Deposit – This is usually the most advantageous way for most consumers to load funds on a card. Simply fill out a form provided by the card’s website and hand it to your human resources department or send it to your government benefits provider and your check will be automatically deposited on your card. Most prepaid cards work very similar to a checking account although you typically will not need to visit a teller to cash your check or write paper checks to pay your bills. Just use your card at an ATM if you need cash or simply pay your bills online. Many prepaid cards like the Mango MasterCard, will actually waive your monthly account fee if you use direct deposit.
- Green Dot Money Pak – One of the most popular methods for loading funds on your prepaid card is with the MoneyPak through thousands of retail outlets nationwide including – Walgreens, Kroger, Rite-Aid, CVS, 7-Eleven, Walmart, Longs Drugs, Kmart, Meijer, Smiths, Fry’s, Fred Meyer, Food4Less and Ralphs. The Green Dot MoneyPak is usually prominently located near a retailer’s cashier or customer service center. Just look for the “Green Dot”. The price for the loading card is usually $4.95. You then give the cashier the cash that you want loaded on the MoneyPak. Once you get home, visit www.moneypak.com or call 1-800-Greendot and enter the 16 digit number from the other prepaid card you picked for your new “bank account” and you’re done. For clarification, the Green Dot card and the “bank account” card are NOT the same card. The MoneyPak card serves as a temporary card only for money loading purposes.
- Financial Money Center – There are thousands of designated “reload centers” that you can also load funds on a prepaid card. AccountNow Visa, for example, offers cardholders the ability to load at any Western Union, Green Dot, REloadit and Visa ReadyLink designated operator. Some other money centers might include: ACE Cash Express, Walmart, PayXone, PayPower, CashPass, TransLoad, PreCash and MoneyCenter Express. Remember, the merchant will usually charge a fee for loading services.
- Card-to-Card Money Transfer – Family and friends that share the same brand, like a REACH Visa, can currently send money to one another for FREE. Always be aware there may be fees associated with these transactions on other cards.
- PayPal or Checking Account ACH Transfer – The prepaid NetSpend MasterCard is a very flexible card with many loading options including transferring funds from a PayPal or traditional bank account. See website for more details. Also, some cards can be set up as a payee in a bank’s bill pay program to transfer money onto a card.
- Credit Card – This isn’t a very popular method to load a prepaid card from the carholder or the card company perspective, but the specialized BillMyParents SpendSmart MasterCard not only allows parents to load money for their teens from a credit card, but comes with great financial education tools for the kids and parental account controls as well.
- Cashiers Check, Personal Check or Money Order – There are a few cards, like the KLS RushCard Visa that will allow you to mail a check or money order to their corporate offices to fund your prepaid card. This is also an unpopular method for loading because a 10 day hold can be put on the check until funds are verified.
- Wire Transfer – With some prepaid cards like the SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard, customers can send or receive Federal Wire Transfers to or from the card account. For the SilverCard, the service is currently FREE. Visit their webpage by clicking the above link to learn how.