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How do I shop for and buy a prepaid card?

When you shop for a prepaid card, compare the features and fees among different cards to find the one that will work best for you. You can buy a prepaid card online or in person at a retail store. When you buy a prepaid card, be sure to register it for protection in case your card or funds are lost or stolen.

Shop around to find the best prepaid card for you

There are many types of prepaid cards, each with different features, fees, and fee structures. Asking a few questions can help you choose the right card for your situation.

Make sure the prepaid card can be used at the locations where you plan to use the card. Prepaid cards that feature a major network brand (like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) can be used at any location that accepts that network brand. Other types of cards may have limitations on where or how they can be used, such as only at ATMs or at specific kinds of stores. Remember, prepaid cards may look like debit cards, credit cards, or gift cards, but they are often quite different.

The card packaging lists key fees and other information about the prepaid account, so you can comparison shop between cards at the store. You may want to visit the website listed on the card to review additional information about the program. Learn more about the fees you will have to pay.

How to buy a prepaid card

You can buy prepaid cards at retail locations (such as grocery stores and drug stores), online, over the phone, or from some banks and credit unions. If you buy the card online, you may be issued a virtual card, or they may send you a physical card in the mail.

When you buy the card, you will pay for the cost of the card plus the amount that you want to load onto it, often termed the “initial load.” Some cards require a minimum initial load.

How to register your reloadable prepaid card

It’s important to register your card so it is protected in case of loss or theft. When you register your card, you may be asked for personal information, such as:

  • Full name
  • Street address (no P.O. boxes)
  • Date of birth
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number, taxpayer identification number, or other identifying number if you are not a U.S. citizen

This personal information is used to verify your identity, which may be necessary before you can use certain card features, such as reloading money onto the card or using the card online or at an ATM. Also, you generally need to register your prepaid card to become eligible for deposit insurance.

Learn more about prepaid cards.