Debit card

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.

 

Debit card

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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53 replies
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  1. Cheryl B. says:

    Thank you so much for this info!!!!! I have had little bits sitting on these stupid prepaid cards forever and couldn’t figure out how to use them up. This is great!

    Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.

  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
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