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We're the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly.

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Is a prepaid card a gift card?


No, a prepaid card is not the same as a gift card. 

Though they may seem similar, gift cards are different from prepaid cards. Prepaid cards might have certain features and fees that may not be available on a gift card, such as:

  • Use at a wide range of merchants
  • The ability to make cash withdrawals or get cash back at point-of-sale
  • The ability to register your card
  • Lost or stolen card protections  

Prepaid card providers often require you to register your card, by asking for certain personal information and using it to verify your identity. They may do so when you first get the prepaid card, or before you enable certain features, like reloading the card or using at an ATM. Prepaid cards are generally not marketed or labeled as a “gift.”

Under federal law, gift card funds must be good for at least five years, and inactivity fees on gift cards can only be charged after 12 months of inactivity and if other conditions are met. These restrictions do not apply to prepaid cards.

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