The Pros and Cons of Prepaid Credit Cards
It is estimated that there may be at least 50 million Americans who are not able to qualify for credit. These people are usually young, often members of the minority groups and unbanked…and they are faced with the long-standing dilemma of credit: how can I build my credit record if no one will give me any credit at all?
One of the answers offered by credit card companies is a variety of prepaid credit cards, designed for use by specific segments in the market. The prepaid credit cards are meant for that significant portion of the population that cannot meet the qualification criteria for regular credit cards, or who qualified before but have since lost their credit due to repeated defaults and other reasons.
Advantages of Prepaid Credit Cards
For those who do not have enough credit history or have had it blemished, prepaid credit cards are an effective way to build or slowly rebuild credit. That may not happen immediately, but it is something to work on over time. The banks that issue prepaid credit cards are also prepared to extend normal credit the moment you are able to show that you have become a worthy credit risk.
You can use prepaid credit cards as you would any other regular credit card to purchase airline tickets, reserve hotel rooms, or order items online.
Prepaid Credit Card for Students
There is a special prepaid Visa credit card for students, which offers a lot of convenience not only for the students but also for their parents. These reloadable prepaid credit cards offer parents several options on how to reload. Parents can add money to reloadable prepaid credit cards by depositing money, by arranging an automatic transfer of funds from their account (a deposit account or their own credit card account), or by online transfer. Using the prepaid Visa credit card is no different from giving the regular allowance to their child, only they do so by electronic means and there is no more cash that changes hands.
The big advantage of the prepaid Visa credit card is that the student is limited to spend only as much money as there is in the card. The parent is thus able to control to some extent the spending behavior of their child. They can use the prepaid credit card anywhere that the credit card brand is accepted.
Prepaid Credit Cards as Gift Certificates Some prepaid credit cards function like gift certificates. You buy the prepaid credit card for a certain amount, and your recipient can purchase items with it at any of the brick-and-mortar stores or online merchants, and also for mail order items, that accept the particular credit card brand. Your recipient can use the prepaid credit card only up to the amount of money that you loaded on it. This particular version of prepaid credit cards is non-reloadable.
Like any gift certificate, recipients of prepaid credit cards can buy whatever it is they want at any time they want. Unlike a gift certificate that, when it gets lost is lost forever to the recipient, prepaid credit cards may be replaced if it gets lost or is stolen.
Prepaid Credit Cards for Travel
There is a prepaid credit card designed for travel. These reloadable prepaid credit cards can be purchased in lieu of travelers’ checks or cash. In a way, it combines the best features of a credit card and a traveler’s check because of its convenience and security features. Should you lose the prepaid credit card while you are on travel, you can easily obtain an emergency replacement, both for the prepaid credit card and some cash.
Prepaid credit cards for travel are accepted all over the world, and also allow you to obtain currency from ATMs. When you need to reload and you are already traveling you can arrange for the reload by phone or online. Apart from the fact that it is a prepaid credit card, you can use it exactly like a regular credit card. That also means you enjoy other benefits just like a regular card — reimbursements for lost luggage of up to $1,000 per cardholder if your luggage is lost; zero liability if your prepaid credit card is used fraudulently after you lose it or have it stolen from you; purchase security up to $500 per claim for any items you buy with prepaid credit cards, which subsequently gets stolen or damaged for certain reasons.
Generally, you can purchase prepaid credit cards of all the major credit card brands at their participating retailers. You don’t have to worry about not having acceptable credit because prepaid credit cards are made available without need of a credit report or a bank account. The only qualifications you need to have are that you have reached 18 years of age and that you must be able to present a valid identification issued by government.
Disadvantages of Prepaid Credit Cards
There are a few things about prepaid credit cards that may not be as convenient as the regular credit cards. For one thing, you load only so much money onto it. You will need to keep track of the balance on the prepaid credit card because not all of the merchant terminals where you use the card may be able to help you determine it. However, there are procedures that tell you how to determine your balance, and you will these detailed on the back of the prepaid credit card and in the instructions accompanying it.
The process of reloading your prepaid credit card may be a little inconvenient to some. If you’re using cash, you would have to visit the participating outlet where you bought your reloadable prepaid credit cards. The more convenient way will be reloading online.
There are also the charges. Prepaid credit cards impose an application fee, the amount of which varies with the issuer, and there is also a service charge that you have to pay monthly. You also have to pay for transaction fees, charges when you transfer funds to top up the balance, when you replace your prepaid credit card, and many other fees. To be sure about the fees, you should read closely the fine print on the prepaid credit card account.
Prospects of Prepaid Credit Cards
Prepaid credit cards do not provide credit; it is your money that you’re using. You are asked to pay other charges, so it is not for free. You are paying for the convenience and security of carrying plastic instead of large amounts of cash. People with bad credit will be able to act as if they had a regular credit card and enjoy the convenience of one.
Issuers of prepaid credit cards realize that it is a good way to monitor the credit behavior of the cardholder. A prepaid credit card would be a source of information that indicates to the credit bureaus and issuing lenders about how you as the individual cardholder use the card to pay your bills such as utilities. If these consumer data could be formatted in such a way as to provide the basis for a statistical model on probable future behavior in spending, then this could become the foundation for building a credit history.
You would benefit, because by using prepaid credit cards you are rebuilding your credit. The prepaid credit card issuers would benefit, too, because they would be making previously unproven customers bankable.