A Guide to Using a Prepaid Card

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Written by: Matt Secretan

A Safe Way to Carry Your Money

This is a payment card that can be topped-up with money by you or somebody else. It looks just the same as any chip and pin debit / credit card with a card number / signature strip and company branding. But prepaid cards are unlike credit cards, which provide you with a line of credit. They are also very different from debit cards that are linked to a bank account with an overdraft facility. This is because you can’t borrow money with a prepaid card – you can only spend the money you have topped-up the account with.

How do they work?

You can use a prepaid card in the same way that you would use a debit or credit card. It’s easy to use your card. To buy something, this is all you need to do:

At the shops

Simply hand your card to the salesperson at the till.

Telephone shopping

Read out the card details over the phone.

Mail order shopping

Complete the order form, including the card details.

Internet shopping

Works the same as any MasterCard – input the card details at the ‘check-out’ step of your Internet purchase.

When you use a prepaid card, the money is immediately taken from the amount topped-up onto the account – not from a line of credit or a bank account. As long as you have enough money available, you can continue to use your prepaid card to buy what you need.

When the amount remaining on your card is low or at zero, you may be able to top-up (or ‘reload’) your account in a number of ways, such as:

  • Cash top-up at post offices or convenience stores
  • Funds transfer from a bank account
  • On-line through an Internet account
  • Standing Order

Please check with your card provider for details.

A prepaid card is an ideal solution for you if you:

  • are travelling abroad and don’t want to carry cash. A prepaid card is more secure because it can be blocked if it’s lost or stolen.
  • want the security of being able to help younger family members to managing their money. They can only spend as much money as is loaded onto the account, and the spending can be viewed on-line.
  • want to manage your money by separating it into different places for different purposes. You could have one card for everyday shopping, one for travel, one for on-line purchases, etc.
  • are having difficulty opening a bank account or getting a credit or debit card for some reason. You don’t need to pass a credit check to get a prepaid card.

Why travel with a prepaid card?

Prepaid cards are now often viewed as the modern day travellers’ cheque. We can’t say it is ‘risk free’ but it is one of the safest ways to carry money when you’re travelling as it is not linked to a bank account.

    • Can help you budget your money
    • No interest charges on the card


  • There’s no danger of going overdrawn on the account. Once the money loaded onto the card has been spent, you can’t spend any more until you’ve reloaded it!

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