The first step in learning to better manage your personal finances is through the use of prepaid cards, since they allow us to use them almost like a debit card, but without worrying about spending more than we can pay because the limit will always be the amount available on our account.
Prepaid card have become an important option for many of us in recent years as they are relatively easy to obtain and at the same time very versatile in their use.
In this guide you will find information about the convenience, security and savings that these cards can offer you. In addition, this guide will help you select the prepaid card that best suits your needs, and will show you how easy it is to obtain one.
Whether you’re just looking for convenience and comfort, or planning for long-term financial security, a prepaid card is definitely a first step in the right direction.
What is a prepaid card?
A prepaid card is a financial product similar to a debit card, but without the need for a bank account. Every time you use it you will be spending the money you put on your card.
In a nutshell, prepaid cards put you in better control of your budget:
- Convenience: They can be used to pay your purchases and bills either in person, by phone and even online.
- Versatility: They are accepted in thousands of commercial establishments, and some can even be used as ATM cards to withdraw cash through ATMs.
- Security: There is no way to spend more than you have available on your card, and many also insure your money in case your card is lost, stolen or misused without authorization.
- What you need to know: Ask if your card is FDIC insured. The Federal Government, through its Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), guarantees the money in certain personal accounts in the event of bankruptcy or financial collapse of the bank that issues these cards and accounts.
Types of prepaid cards
Non-reloadable prepaid cards
They are the popular prepaid cards usually known as “Gift Cards”.
They are the easiest cards to acquire. Some are associated with a chain of stores and are valid only in certain establishments, or they are cards that can be used in places that accept debit and credit cards, including by phone and Internet.
You simply buy a card with an assigned amount of money, and you can use it as long as you have funds. However, they have limitations, for example:
- They are not rechargeable;
- They could have an expiration date;
- They are not protected in case of theft;
- You could lose your money if you lose them.
Reloadable prepaid cards
Reloadable cards are bank cards, in which you can continue to deposit money to use them for a longer time. They are the most convenient because you can even use them to directly deposit your salary to the card; You can make deposits in stores where you shop, and you can make automatic payments for recurring bills such as telephone, electricity and other services, among many other benefits.
These cards have a cost that can be monthly or per transaction. You’ll soon find, however, that reloadable prepaid cards save you time and money on many of your transactions by no longer having to pay for services like check cashing and bill payments.
How to choose a reloadable prepaid card
To decide, you must first think about what use you are going to give your card. Please read the limitations carefully before choosing your card!
A reloadable prepaid card must meet at least two fundamental requirements: convenience and security.
Check if the card you evaluate meets the following points:
- Ability to easily add money in stores
- Direct deposit of your salary
- Possibility of managing your account online (by Internet)
- Possibility of making your payments online or by phone
- Receive text messages to your cell phone about your balance and transactions
- Possibility of obtaining additional cards
- Money transfer to other cardholders
- Dedicated customer service in Spanish
- Check if the card you evaluate meets the following points:
- Protection in case of card loss or theft
- Card backed by a US bank
- Personalized with your name and a PIN (Personal Identification Number)
What you should know: Do you sometimes wonder where your money was spent? Reloadable prepaid cards are ideal for keeping tabs on your finances. Some of these cards offer you the ability to check your spending and balance online or via text message, without the need for a bank statement. Remember that you can only spend the amount of money you have available on the card. You are in control!
How to get a reloadable prepaid card
Getting a reloadable prepaid card is relatively easy and can be done in minutes.
The information you will need to provide is:
- Social Security number.
- If you don’t have one, foreign photo IDs such as a consular license plate or passport are also regularly accepted.
- Postal address (home address).
What You Should Know: The US PATRIOT Act is a Federal Law that requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account with a financial institution. This law is for the protection of all of us in an effort to improve public safety against terrorism and money laundering.
Get the most out of your card!
Activate it as soon as you receive it and you’ll see that your prepaid card is like cash but better! Start enjoying some of the benefits below.
- It is a practical and safer option than carrying cash.
- Get more control of your spending—now you can know where you spend your money.
- Take advantage of discounts when buying online.
- Pay your phone, electricity and other service bills online and by phone.
- Forget about the problem of surcharges or cancellations for late payments and credit your payments instantly.
- Enroll your card to make fixed monthly payments automatically.
Withdrawals and deposits of money
- Your card becomes your bank account.
- Request automatic deposit of your salary so you don’t have to go to the bank to cash your check.
- Use ATMs to withdraw cash whenever you need it.
- Withdraw cash at the stores where you shop.
- Reload checks or cash at participating stores.
What you need to know: Don’t forget to activate your cards, whether temporary or permanent. As soon as your permanent card arrives, it will have your name engraved on it; it is also important to activate it immediately to enjoy all its benefits. Follow the instructions that come with your card.
Protect your identity and beware of fraud
As in any financial transaction, you must take care of your money and its security. These practical tips can prevent you from falling prey to crime and/or fraud.
- Sign your prepaid card just like any bank card, as soon as you receive it.
- When discarding your expired prepaid cards, cut them up first.
- Keep your personal code (PIN) secret.
- Avoid easy passwords like obvious names and numbers, like your birthday or phone number.
- Keep your personal and financial information in secure, locked places.
- Don’t give out your card numbers to strangers or give out personal information over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call.
- When signing vouchers or receipts do not leave blank spaces in front of the amount in numbers, just draw a line to prevent someone from adding a number. Never sign a blank receipt.
- Check your list of transactions frequently. Call customer service if you see a transaction that you did not authorize.
- Write down the customer service number and keep it in a safe place. If you lose your card, call immediately to block the card and any fraudulent purchases. You will receive a new card and you will not lose your money or time.