A prepaid card works similarly to a gift card, but it’s one that you can reload with cash.
Even though it can be used to pay bills, rent, book a hotel or a car, and buy products online, it’s more of a debit card than a credit card because users are unable to spend more than what’s on it.
It’s also perfect for travelers who don’t want to carry a lot of cash on them.
Quick answer: Most prepaid cards cannot be loaded with a credit card. However, you can use a credit card advance to load a prepaid card -- not recommended because of the fees and higher interest rates involved.
Who prepaid cards are good for
When you use a prepaid card, you’re using your own money instead of borrowing money from the bank, like you do with a credit card.
What makes them different is that you don’t need a bank account to use a prepaid card. You can load money directly onto it before making purchases.
Once you have no more money left on it, you simply reload it.
Most major card networks -- including Visa, American Express, Discover, and MasterCard -- offer prepaid cards.
Therefore, they can be used anywhere debit cards can, like at the grocery store, gas station, and even for bills.
Prepaid cards are used as an alternative to banks. Many people in the U.S. don’t have checking accounts. Instead, they use prepaid cards to make card-based purchases more convenient.
Prepaid cards have account numbers and routing numbers, so users can have paychecks deposited directly into the card, just like they would with a checking account.
Unlike credit cards, no credit is required or built with a prepaid card. They were originally created for people with poor or no credit history.
They are still a great option for anyone with credit issues because it’s impossible to spend more than what’s on the card.
Prepaid cards expire when the money on them runs out. Additionally, there’s no credit check required when signing up for a prepaid card.
The most common reasons people get prepaid cards are to avoid overdraft fees, to control spending, to control credit card debt, and to make purchases with merchants that don’t accept cash.
However, many people use prepaid cards to collect points and rewards too.
Like any other financial decision, it’s best to do your research before getting a prepaid card. Some charge extra for customer service, and most have fees for activating the card, doing balance inquiries, for using the ATM, reloading money and more.
Figure out what a prepaid card will cost you before making a decision.
Common methods of reloading a prepaid card
Buying a reload card, kind of like buying a minutes card for a cell phone, is a popular method of reloading a prepaid card.
Reloading money by setting up a direct deposit from a bank account is one way to get around monthly fees depending on the card. One can even collect cash bonuses when they sign up if they initially deposit a specific amount.
Most of the time, people set up direct deposits from their paycheck, a government benefits check or a cash refund.
The option to set up direct deposits on a prepaid card is available when you sign up for one on the website of a card network. This also allows people to monitor their direct deposits and activity online.
Reload Networks in Retail
Common cards from major networks allow for alternative methods of loading funds through different reload networks. Some examples are MoneyGram, Western Union, Green Dot, and Visa ReadyLink.
These financial service merchants are usually found in gas stations and convenient stores and they offer reload services for a fee. Other retail reload networks are ACE Express, PayZone, ReloadIT, PreCash, and CashPass.
Transfer from bank account
Most prepaid cards allow for transfers from a bank account directly onto the card, which can be set up online.
Some cards will also accept checks, wire transfers or money orders. However, not all cards offer the ability to transfer cash from an existing bank account.
Reloading a prepaid card with a credit card
These days, many cards only allow transfers from the methods mentioned above. However, there are still ways to use a credit card for reloads.
Reloads with a credit card were accepted more often until prepaid card holders started abusing this method to simply get more points and rewards.
It was a common method to hit credit card bonuses without actually buying anything. Now, reloading a prepaid card with a credit card is pretty rare.
One way is to use cash advance checks that come with a credit card. By making the check out in the card holder’s name, one can cash the check in a retail store or check cashing center.
Some stores let people make a cash advance check out to the business, then a customer service representative can deposit the money directly onto the card.
That way, one can save money by not having to pay personal check cashing fees along with the fees to reload a prepaid card.
Another way to use a credit card to reload a prepaid card is by withdrawing cash directly from an ATM to reload onto a prepaid card.
However, getting a cash advance from your credit card comes with steep fees and even steeper interest rates. Only do this if you can pay back the balance on the credit card immediately to avoid falling into credit card debt.
Reloading with a credit card, in general, isn’t worth it. The fees and interest involved with taking out a cash advance from a credit card on top of all the fees for opening and reloading a prepaid card make it a very expensive method.
Fees vary between different types of cards and institutions, but when it comes to cash advances, they’re of the more expensive financial options.
Prepaid cards are best for people who are traveling and want to keep their cash safe or have poor credit or are recovering from debt and need to control their spending.
For those who don’t have a bank account or a checking account, they’re a great option for convenient spending because you can use them to pay for anything that a regular credit card can be used for.
Prepaid cards come with various methods of reloading and monitoring them, leaving one with plenty of options outside of a credit card to add money to the card.