Using a prepaid credit card is a smart way to pay for the goods and services we all want and need in life. With prepaid credit cards and prepaid debit cards, adults can benefit from the absence of interest charges and credit card debt, while teenagers who use prepaid cards can learn how to manage their finances without risking financial ruin.
According to a recent Experian-Gallop poll, 31 percent of Americans are having trouble making ends meet, and 49 percent of American consumers donít pay their credit card balance in full at the end of the month. Many hard-working, middle-class Americans are struggling with their finances, and credit card debt is playing no small part in the decline of the American standard of living. One smart way to avoid credit card debt and credit card interest charges: use prepaid credit cards, also known as prepaid debit cards or stored value cards.
Prepaid credit cards work the same way traditional credit cards do and can be used to pay for all manner of goods and services at virtually any place that accepts regular credit cards. The main difference between a prepaid card and a regular credit card is that with a prepaid card you need to fund the account before making purchases. And since you donít work with a credit line with prepaid cards, they are ideal for people who want to enjoy the benefits of owning a Visaģ or MasterCardģ, but who also donít want to shoulder the burden of credit card debt and credit card interest charges.
Advantages of Prepaid Credit Cards:
Prepaid credit cards are much easier to get than standard credit cards. Just about anyone and everyone who applies for a prepaid card gets their application accepted. You can even order a prepaid credit card online from the convenience of your home. There are no credit checks or minimum income requirements.
When using a prepaid card to pay for goods and services, you donít have to worry about amassing debt. You simply fund your prepaid card, spend the money at your leisure, then fill the card up again.
With prepaid credit cards, you donít pay any interest as a result of making purchases. With a standard credit card, interest charges can accumulate rapidly, especially if the credit card in question engages in the practice of double-cycle billing.
Prepaid credit cards donít charge annual, late payment or over-the-limit fees that often accompany standard credit cards.
A parent can give a teenaged child a prepaid credit card to use for college spending. Giving a college student a prepaid card as opposed to a regular card has its advantages, the most salient being that a student can learn how to control his or her spending -- a critical life lesson Ė without losing sleep worrying about fees, interest charges or the dreaded situation of having credit card debt at an early age.
In general, prepaid credit cards provide the same fraud protection that regular credit cards offer. If you own a prepaid credit card with fraud protection, you can, in most circumstances, have charges that you didnít make refunded back to your card.
Disadvantages of Prepaid credit cards:
The vast majority of prepaid cards require you to pay a setup or activation fee when you first open a prepaid credit card account. The setup fee is usually nominal -- typically between $5 and $20 -- and it varies from one card to another, but it can be as high as fifty dollars. This may seem like a lot, but remember that itís a one-time charge, and when you compare this to the fees associated with regular credit cards, a one-time setup fee really isnít that burdensome.
Certain prepaid cards also charge a monthly maintenance fee.
Another drawback to prepaid credit cards is that you might not be able to use them when setting up automatic billing (e.g. having your local utility company automatically charge you for your electricity usage each month.)
When using a prepaid credit card, no activity reports are made to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.) This means that transactions made using a prepaid card will not affect your credit history. This can be considered either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending upon your spending, budgetary and payment habits. If you are the type of person who misses a credit card payment every once in a while, then using a prepaid card for your spending would probably be advantageous for you, since you wouldnít have to worry about a missed payment being reported to the credit bureaus. On the other hand, if you are trying to improve you credit score and you are very disciplined about making timely payments to your creditors, then youíd probably be better off getting a standard credit card with the best possible terms and conditions.
Prepaid credit cards have been gaining in popularity in recent years, and are likely to continue doing so. A standard credit card is a great financial tool when used responsibly, but standard cards arenít for everyone. Bottom line: prepaid cards are a safe, convenient and debt-free payment alternative for all types of consumers.