From travel money to everyday spending, prepaid credit cards give you secure and convenient access to your own cash when you need it.
A wide range of providers offer prepaid cards you can use when travelling, shopping online or making payments in New Zealand. Some cards also offer rewards or the ability to load funds in different international currencies.
Use this guide to learn about the different features of prepaid credit cards, how to compare them and where you can get one so that you can decide if this type of card is right for you.
What is a prepaid credit card?
A prepaid credit card lets you load and use your own money to make payments at the checkout or online. This is different to normal credit cards, which allow you to draw money from your credit limit and pay it off over time (usually with interest charges).
While a prepaid credit card can be used to make payments in the same ways as a regular credit card, using your own money means that there is no debt or interest charges. A prepaid credit card also has no impact on your credit history.
What features and benefits come with prepaid cards?
Similar to credit cards, the features of prepaid cards vary depending on the one you choose. But some of the most popular features and benefits you can get with a prepaid card include:
- More control over the balance or the amount of money on the card
- An alternative to a credit card for someone under 18
- Access to multiple currencies through the one card
- Lower fees and charges than other credit cards
- No interest rate
- Reward points
- Money tracking tools
- Security against theft, loss and fraud
Comparing prepaid credit cards based on the features that interest you will help you find the right card for your needs.
What types of prepaid credit cards are available?
Just as there are different types of regular credit cards, there is a range of prepaid cards designed to suit specific needs, including:
- Everyday prepaid credit cards. These cards offer convenience for day-to-day spending and could include tap-and-go payments, balance-tracking features and fast, easy money loading options.
- Prepaid travel cards. You can use prepaid travel cards to load New Zealand dollars and convert them into a number of supported foreign currencies at a locked-in exchange rate. This means that you can access your own funds overseas without the cost of a currency conversion fee.
- Gift cards. Prepaid credit cards can make great gifts as an alternative to cash, and can be loaded with a nominated amount or purchased with a set amount already on the card. These cards may be designed to be used at specific shops or businesses, such as Westfield stores, and can usually be re-loaded once the balance is spent.
- Money transfer cards. Money transfer cards allow multiple people in different countries to access funds in one account. These accounts come with two cards; one person deposits money in the account, and the other person, who has the card in a different country, can access the funds as soon as they clear in the account.
- Prepaid reward cards. Some prepaid cards are also linked to reward programs and earn you points for your spending.
How to compare prepaid credit cards
Considering the following features will help you find a prepaid credit card that is right for you.
- Pre-loaded vs. reloadable. Some prepaid cards come with a fixed amount of money to use, while others allow you to load money on an ongoing basis. If you’re planning to use the card more than once, consider a reloadable card.
- Purchasing or set up fee. Prepaid cards may come with a one-off fee when you buy them. Some cards don’t charge a fee or will waive it for existing customers.
- Loading fees. Some prepaid credit cards charge an initial loading fee, and some might charge a fee every time you add more money to the card. Others don’t charge anything, so make sure to read the terms and conditions to confirm how much you could pay.
- Inactivity fee. This fee usually applies if you get a reloadable prepaid card and don’t use it for 12 months. A typical inactivity fee might range from $1 to $5 per month. Keeping this in mind when you compare prepaid cards could help you avoid this charge.
- Currency conversion fees. A fee might be applied for any currency conversions associated with the prepaid card. If you’re spending in a supported currency, you can usually avoid this fee with a travel card.
- Rewards. If you’ll be using the card regularly, consider whether you can earn rewards on your purchases and what you can redeem them for.
- Other fees. Prepaid debit cards can include a number of other fees including card replacement fees, cancellation fees, declined transaction fees and ATM withdrawal fees. Check these charges before you apply to find an affordable prepaid card for your needs.
- Load limits. Prepaid cards usually have a maximum amount of money you can carry on the card at one time, ranging from $30 to $10,000 or more. Check these details before you apply to make sure these limits don’t restrict the way you use the card.
Every prepaid credit card is different, so make sure you’ve checked the individual terms and know how they’ll work for you.
How can I get a prepaid credit card?
Depending on the prepaid credit card you choose, you will be able to apply online or in person at participating retailers and bank branches. The application details are different for each card, but here are the most common requirements you need to meet:
- Age. Some prepaid credit cards specify a minimum age for cardholders or will limit the available balance if a person is under a certain age.
- Personal details. You may need to provide personal details such as your full name, residential address, contact phone number and date of birth to help verify your identity.
- Initial load amount. Some cards may require you to load a minimum amount onto the card when you first get it.
- Card activation. You will need to activate the card before you can use it. This can be done in person, over the phone or online depending on the card.
- PIN. Prepaid credit cards may come with an assigned PIN, or require you to choose a PIN when you activate the card.
- Signing the card. Make sure you sign the card once you receive and activate it. This is a necessary step to help protect yourself from unauthorised transactions.
Making sure you are prepared to meet these requirements will help you get your card as quickly as possible. If you apply in person, you might be able to get and use your card straight away. If you apply online you will have to wait to receive the card in the post. You can also check with the prepaid credit card provider to find out about specific card requirements before you apply.
Prepaid credit cards combine flexibility and affordability by letting you load and spend your own money in a range of different ways. With so many different prepaid cards available, learning more about them and comparing prepaid options will help you get the most out of these cards whenever you choose to use them.