A pile of reloadable prepaid debit cards

How to Use Up Every Last Cent on a Prepaid Debit Card

Some prepaid debit cards can be problematic because it’s nearly impossible to use it up to the last cent. That means you end up with some odd amount on the card that no one will accept for payment unless by some miracle your purchase is equal to or less than that odd amount.

 

A pile of reloadable prepaid debit cards

Photo Credit: GiftCards.com

Another problem

According to our friends at NerdWallet, some prepaid debit cards—not the funds but the cards themselves—have expiration dates, which is difficult to understand, but true nonetheless.

And another

Most stores will not allow you to “split payments.” That means if you buy a new bike and want to use up that last $1.77 on a prepaid debit card (paying the balance with cash or some other form of payment), most stores will not let you do it. The problem is when the salesperson tries to process the prepaid card, it returns a rejection because the balance on the card is insufficient to cover the entire transaction.

There is a way …

I want to show you a way that you can use up that $1.77 or any nagging tiny balance—even $.05— left on a prepaid debit card. But before we go on, let’s define terms.

Prepaid debit card

A debit card that has has a MasterCard or Visa logo on it. It’s been “loaded” with a certain amount of money that can be spent in any store that takes MasterCard or Visa transactions. Mostly, people purchase these cards outright (plus an outrageous fee), but you may have received them in other ways—for a gift, or as your rebate from Verizon, AT&T or any number of other companies offering rebates.

Department store gift card

This article does not apply to a Nordstrom, Target, Kohls or any other such retailer. They issue their branded department store gift cards which represent store credit, not money in the form of a prepaid debit card.

For anyone worried that I’m about to suggest you do something so sneaky you could be arrested, relax. This is very ethical and completely legal—openly allowed, and actually quite clever.

How to use up every last cent

You will use Amazon to convert any amount on any prepaid debit card (defined above), even if what remains is only a few cents. This means you need an Amazon account. If you have ever purchased anything there, you have an account. If not,  open one. It’s free and easy. The way to conquer the prepaid debit-card problem above is with your account at Amazon.com.

You will use what’s reamining on that prepaid debit card to reload your Amazon gift card account, even if it is only a few cents. Now it can be used to buy anything at Amazon. And you can split payments. That means if you added $1.71 to your Amazon gift card balance, you can use it now to purchase let’s say (shameless plug alert) one of my books or a gift for your best friend.

First, you apply said Amazon gift card amount to your purchase, then pay the balance as you normally would.

The nice thing is that an Amazon gift card balance never expires. You can just hold the funds in your Amazon account until you need them or until you want to purchase an Amazon Gift Card for yourself or someone else.

So let’s review, shall we?

Amazon has a method by which you can move any amount from a prepaid debit card into your Amazon.com gift card account. Those funds can now be used to purchase things including Amazon Gift Cards.

Follow these steps

To add a prepaid debit card balance to your account:

  1. Go to Amazon.com and log in using your passcodes.
  2. Look at the upper right side of the page and click on “Account and Lists.”
  3. Select the first item in the pull-down menu, “Your Account.”
  4. Click on “Gift cards.”
  5. Then “Reload Your Balance.”
  6. Scroll down and click “Add a card.”
  7. Enter your card information. If your card doesn’t contain your name, put your name in the field labeled “Name on card” then fill in the rest of the fields.

Once your card has been added you can reload your Amazon gift card balance with any amount remaining on that prepaid debit card. More here.

While prepaid debit-cards remain one of my personal nemesis for their high fees and the way it’s difficult to actually use them up, at least now we know there is a way to do it—up to the very last cent!

NEXT UP:

Savvy Shopper Tricks and Treats

How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

9 Ways You May Be Abusing Your Appliances


Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

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  1. DeeBillzs TheKing Emery says:

    But why we need that, we already have a card bank and our bank make buzziness with visa and master card. I informe myself a little on prepaid card and is not visa or mastercard runs the market of prepaid credit card. it’s another Bank that control that market

    check on the back you will see visa number but if you phone they will not able to tell you how much you have in this card, they told you to go on is website but he don’t work , they will give u a number and this number is the bank that run. I know i make all this step with the visa phonegirl lol I,m french

    But for people like me is the last alternative to do if i want to spend my money on the web.

    Reply
  2. Jane says:

    As long as they know the exact balance on the card (they can call the automated # on the back, or look it up online), they can in fact use the card at almost all places. I am a cashier at a grocery store and we do this all the time, easy peasy! 🙂 For my own personal gift cards, I always write the small balance on the card with a marker (if you don’t reload the card), then I know how much is on it, and can use it. Much easier than converting to another card, or not getting to use those last few cents.

    Reply
  3. Gehugh says:

    I had such a miserable experience with a pre-paid visa that I was trying to purchase for my husband while he was away that I totally gave up. This was trying to PURCHASE the pre-paid card, mind you!

    Reply
  4. mary says:

    As a former cashier at Burlington Coat factory customers would come up to me and say I have this card but I don’t know how much is on it. We would start with $5.00 off the marked amount on the card, then proceed down by $5.00 increments until we were able to use the card. Also before you enter the store, call the number on the card, find out exactly how much is on the card. When you go to pay, let the cashier know and bingo, that amount is deducted. No problem.

    Reply
  5. Jessica says:

    I have a Paypal prepaid Mastercard. It’s offered through the Netspend company, so one of the benefits it has is a savings account that pays very high interest–5%. I have my paycheck direct deposited onto my card for free, and I get paid 2 days earlier than my coworkers (I get paid on Wednesday, normal payday is Friday). Whatever is left over on the day before payday gets transferred to the savings account. I use it mainly as a debit card and very rarely withdraw cash. Because of this I only pay $4.95 per month in fees. I originally got into debt by overdrawing a regular checking account to the point where I couldn’t pay my bills. One particular perk of my card is it can’t be overdrawn, instead the transaction is declined if there isn’t enough money on my card. Well worth the money if you ask me.

    Reply
    • SuperByteMan says:

      Thanks for that information, Jessica, I finally found the info by googling “Paypal prepaid mastercard netspend”. I’ll put enough money in the savings account to more than cover the $4.95 fee. I wonder how long they will keep the first tier interest earnings rate at 5%.

      Reply
  6. Andrew Brandner says:

    There is a much easier way, and it’s what we always use.

    When you get one of those cards, do a one time payment to a utility. Cable, cell phone, etc. Then, take the value of that gift card and put it in your savings account. Even if you have 20 cents left on a card, you can do a one time payment to your utility.

    Win!

    Reply
    • Linda says:

      Yes, we get these as gifts and I have always used them to pay on our phone bill (Verizon takes them, as does our small local co-op). I then use the money I would have spent on the phone bill for whatever the family member that received the gift card would like.

      Reply
    • LoraineP says:

      I do this too! One of the benefits of doing it this way you are not spending money for the sake of spending money and it is actually helping you!
      Every time I receive a prepaid visa/master card gift card I apply it to a utility. Another benefit of doing this if you purchase something and then get rid of the card because it is empty and then want to return something they want to credit it back to the credit/debit card which is long gone.

      Reply
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