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 credit-card branded gift card. That means it 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, Kohl’s or any other such retailer. They issue their branded department store gift cards which represent store credit, not 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

9 Incredibly Simple Hacks to Take Stress Out of Flying


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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52 replies
  1. Greg B says:

    The instructions need to be amended. I just tried this method, but Amazon has a 50-cent minimum transfer amount. My stupid Green Dot Visa card has 18 cents on it. I can’t cancel my card until the balance is zero. Irritating predicament! I’ll try using it at the gas pump today. I’m never using a pre-paid card again.

    Reply
  2. William Reed says:

    I always had this problem with Prepaid cards. I solved this problem by using the entire amount on my prepaid card to buy a Walmart gift card. No wasted money and if I buy something and don’t have the full amount, Walmart allows you to pay the balance with cash or credit card.

    Reply
  3. Nancy McConnell says:

    I just use them to get gas. I had 4 cards with $5 on each and I told them I wanted to buy $20 in gas. It lets me slide each card until there is a zero balance at the end. If you have a card with $2.62 on it and a card with $5 on it you can buy $7.62 worth of gas and then swipe and process cards one at a time. It will subtract each scanned card and the remaining balance to be paid comes out to “0”. I do this all the time. I think you can do it with up to 5 cards at a time. I should also say I have done this at Exxon and Shell

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Anne Marie: This is from Amazon at this link: “Combine the balances of your prepaid cards no matter the amount, in one convenient balance that can be spent on the millions of items found on Amazon.”

      Please read the post again, as I have updated with numbered steps to do this! You dont have to throw away even $.50! Good luck

      Reply
      • g says:

        i dont see how to do it. I have a few cards with .05 on them. If I enter .05, it says minimum .50. If I put in .50 or more, I can only select 1 card to use.

  4. Joyce says:

    I work for Stein Mart as a cashier. We accept multiple forms of payment on purchases in our stores. The prepaid cards are accepted for the amount that’s on them. You don’t have to jump through any hoops.

    Reply
  5. valencia whitehead says:

    Thanks SO much for this! i was able to transfer about $6 to my Amazon account from three virtual Visa cards before they expired!

    Reply
  6. Nancy says:

    I recently got a $100 Mastercard virtual card from my phone service provider and used it to buy a $100 gift card from Amazon, which I spent on my Amazon account. Amazon was offering a $10 bonus for purchasing a $100 gift card, so it ended up being $110. Very straightforward

    Reply
  7. Jo says:

    Whenever I get one of these prepaid cards, I just use them to purchase a store gift card for the full amount. Walmart, Amazon, anywhere I know that I shop regularly. That way I know I won’t have to worry about the odd amount leftover.

    Reply
  8. mike cerutti says:

    My recent experience with this is for a virtual rebate card. I contacted Amazon about how to split a payment and they told me about doing this with the gift card. However, I ran into an issue. When I added the card as a payment option, Amazon performed a $1 pre-authorization transaction, similar to what gas stations do when you pay at the pump. Then when I tried to transfer the $5 on the card, it was denied as the issuer was now showing the balance as $4. It took the issuer 30 days to recognize the “refund”. I then tried again and Amazon tried to verify the card again 🙁 So I took the $4 and I am hoping I can the additional $1 after another 30 days.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Good for you for being so diligent. Somewhere on the Amazon site there is mention of this—that some banks have this $1 preauthorization transaction fee. Just nuts, isn’t it? Remember how simple cash used to be? Ha!

      Reply
  9. Paul Benard says:

    This is untrue. I have added $0.41 on my Amazon account with no problem. Just add your prepaid card as a payment method, check the balance on the card you want to add, then click “reload your balance” on the Amazon gift card and add the balance you want to the gift card.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      You’re absolutely correct, Paul. I amended the post to list the exact steps one by one, in an effort to make this very clear.

      Reply
  10. Keith Tang says:

    thank for this article, can you please explain in a little more details about “Amazon.com has a method by which you can move any amount from a prepaid debit card into your Amazon.com account. ” ?
    I have a prepaid card with balance less then $.50, which is below the minimum balance to purchase a gift card. I would like to “transfer” the amount to my Amazon account, but I don’t see where you can “transfer” a balance to Amazon account, and if you could transfer the balance to Amazon account, why would you need to purchase an Amazon Gift Card and email to yourself? you can just apply the balance to your purchase directly. no?

    Reply
  11. V8-Snail says:

    This instruction was misleading! You will need at least $0.50 in your prepaid card to be able to do this. There is no option to just transfer the balance from your prepaid into Amazon account, you could reload you gift card balance with your prepaid, but you will need at least $0.50 left in your prepaid.

    Reply
    • Paul Benard says:

      This is untrue. I have added $0.41 on my Amazon account with no problem. Just add your prepaid card as a payment method, check the balance on the card you want to add, then click “reload your balance” on the Amazon gift card and add the balance you want to the gift card.

      Reply
      • Noelani says:

        @Paul, I just tried that. It would not allow me to do that. My prepaid was already added as a payment method. I put the balance of my card $0.39. and I clicked “reload your balance”…and it says “! The minimum amount is $0.50” in bright red.

      • Mark says:

        Please help me! I have dozens of prepaid Visas with ~30-40 cents each. I want this money! I am getting the message that says “The minimum amount is 0.50”. How can I combine the different cards that each have a balance less than 0.50???

  12. Elizabeth Jackson says:

    I have used those cards with the split payment option to pay my cell bill and even auto insurance. Thing is the card had to have at least a dollar value and most companies only let you process around 5 cards per day. So if you have lots of low value cards it might take a week or two to pay that bill.

    Reply
  13. Hooping Hopper says:

    I had a virtual visa prepaid card with 47 cents on it. Since it was a virtual card, I could not take it to a store to have them do a partial payment but, I finally figured out how to use it. I read a few articles online that said to try to apply it to a utility or insurance bill but, the minimum payment on those was $1. I also read a few posts that said to reload a gift card/add to gift card balance on Amazon but, the minimum is 50 cents so, I couldn’t do that. So, I added something to my cart on Amazon that was $10.99, with tax it was $12.22. I then reloaded $11.75 to my gift card balance with another card. Then at checkout my gift card balance was automatically selected and the balance left to be paid was exactly $0.47, I selected my prepaid card and voila, I was done. And by voila I mean I spend a good hour and a half online trying to figure it out lol

    Reply
  14. Sylvain says:

    I cannot even find a way to actually SEE my amount of money in Amazon.com! I have registered 6 pre-paid cards into amazon, all of them with more than 2$ left. Still cannot see how much i have in my Amazon.com account. There seem to be NO WHERE to see the amount of money you have on your account. this is ridiculously complicated for nothing…

    Reply
  15. MooMoo says:

    Doesn’t work for me, don’t know this “transfer the value of any prepaid debit-card that has not expired to your account at Amazon.com.” that you speak of. The only way that’s obvious to do that is through an Amazon gift card aka “reload your balance.” Which as stated requires at least 50 cents. So that claim of being able to get even 5 cents seems to be bollocks.

    Reply
  16. PCB_Rob says:

    I finally got around to trying this, and its awesome. I had five gift cards of varying amounts left on them, I had taken a sharpie and written the remainder on each. I reloaded an Amazon gift card with the remainder on each card and now have about $15 to spend. I shop at Amazon quite often so this is great. Thanks Mary for a great tip!

    Reply
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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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