Using a Prepaid Visa Card — A Few Tips

A Visa® prepaid debit card is not a Visa credit card. Prepaid debit cards are “pay before” cards. Credit cards are “pay after” cards. With a prepaid Visa, your spending is limited to the amount of money you have loaded on the Visa prepaid card. Each time you make a purchase with the debit card, the amount of the purchase is deducted from the balance. If your card is a reloadable Visa card, it may be used to make withdrawals at ATM machines. Here are a few tips for using a prepaid Visa card.

First, when you receive your prepaid Visa, make sure to write down your prepaid Visa card number. Write it down somewhere, and keep it in a safe place. If the card is lost or stolen, the card number will be required to order a replacement.

Keep track of your balance. Know the balance on your prepaid Visa before making a purchase. Many merchants cannot determine the balance on your card. When you make a purchase, record it and make a note of the new balance immediately. To check your balance, use the instructions provided by the program manager that issued your card (you should have received a mailer with information as well as an email with account information). Use it frequently. If your card provider offers mobile (or SMS) updates of your balance, use them!

To make purchases using your prepaid Visa card, give the card to the cashier and sign the receipt, or push “credit” on the keypad and sign. Although it states “debit” on the front of the card, many prepaid Visa’s does not come with a PIN (and, in many situations, you will save money by using “signature debit” rather than “PIN debit”).

If there is not sufficient value on the prepaid Visa card to pay for a purchase, you can pay the difference with a second form of payment such as a credit or debit card, cash or check. Tell the cashier you are using a Visa prepaid card and how much you will pay with each form of payment at the beginning of the transaction.

Your prepaid Visa card must contain sufficient funds for the full value of the purchase including tip. If a purchase is declined even though the card has sufficient funds, call the company that issued your card immediately to find out why. (their number should be printed on the back of your prepaid Visa).

Remember to save your purchase receipts and the card even after you have depleted the funds on the card in case there are returns. You may be asked to present the card if you wish to return an item purchased with it. The amount of the return will be credited back to your card typically within three to seven days.

Some types of transactions are processed with “authorization holds”. Here’s what you need to know:

Gas stations—When paying at the pump, simply insert the card and follow the instructions. If the transaction is not completed, you may need to go inside and pay the attendant prior to pumping.

Restaurants, bars, taxis, beauty and barber shops, and health and beauty spas—When using the Visa prepaid card to initiate a transaction at a merchant where a tip may be included be sure your balance is sufficient to cover an additional 20% above your total bill. If the bill, plus estimated tip, exceeds the available balance on the card the purchase will be declined. The actual amount charged to your card will not exceed the amount of the bill plus the tip you add. The actual tip amount is at your discretion.

Filed under: Learning Center, Tips
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