Last updated October 2020
A prepaid card is a card that you can add money to and spend like a regular debit or credit card. It works in the same way as a pay-as-you-go phone would, except you use it to make purchases.
Prepaid cards are sometimes referred to as prepaid credit cards, prepaid debit or cash cards. They all mean the same thing and work in the same way. While it’s commonly called a credit card, you don’t actually take out credit like you would with a regular credit card.
The idea behind a prepaid card is that you load it up with a certain amount of cash, and you only spend that amount. For example, at the start of the month, you can add your food shopping budget to a prepaid card and use it until it runs out.
This can help you reduce overspending or impulse purchases. Once your money has run out, you can top it up, but there’s typically a limit on how much you can put on a card.
Most prepaid cards are either MasterCard or Visa and work like regular debit or credit cards. You will be able to use them in any shops, restaurants or online shopping.
Remember: A prepaid card can be a great way to help manage your spending habits as they don’t allow you to overspend. This can be a good option for someone with a bad credit rating or for a younger person who has not got a credit history.
The main reason why people get a prepaid card is to help with budgeting. Knowing you have a certain amount on your card means you’re much less likely to overspend.
Here are some other advantages to using a prepaid card:
A prepaid card can be a very useful way to control your spending but are there any downsides to this method?
The first one to be aware of is that some prepaid cards will have monthly fees. You may have to pay a fee to add funds to your card, withdraw cash or even if you haven’t used your card for a while. If you haven’t used your card for months, you could be charged a small fee for inactivity.
Some other disadvantages to prepaid cards include:
We have listed out some frequently asked prepaid card questions.
You can top up a prepaid card in a few different ways. You can do it through online banking via bank transfer, you can pay in cash at Post Offices or banks or by receiving bank transfers.
This can vary, but typically you will need to pay £1 if you pay in cash at a Post Office or 3% if you add funds at a PayPoint shop. You won’t usually have to pay anything if you send money by bank transfer. If you wish to withdraw cash from your prepaid card, you may have to pay a fee as well.
Using a prepaid card is often safer than using cash or a regular debit card. That’s because if your card is lost or stolen, you can cancel your card, which makes it safer than cash. If it’s stolen, a thief can only access a limited amount of money rather than your entire bank account funds.
Yes. Some prepaid cards allow you to add foreign currency to your card, which can help you manage holiday spending while abroad. It’s best to check this first before you open a new prepaid card as not all of them will allow you to do so.