Over the years, both prepaid cards and gift cards have evolved to be more consumer friendly. They now come with a variety of features that are designed to make them a great payment method for the consumer. However, before you decide to load money onto either of these payment options, it's important to know the difference between these two cards.
Although prepaid cards are not directly connected to a bank account, they work similar to debit cards. This means that a prepaid card will have to be activated with your social security number, will have your name printed on the card, and can be used in conjunction with a secure PIN code. Gift cards don't have all of the same security protections in place, which makes them a target for criminals. This is especially true when gift cards are sent through the mail.
One-Time Versus Continuous Use
Generally, gift cards are designed for one-time use. Once the balance on the card has been used up, the card is no longer useful and just gets thrown away. On the other hand, prepaid cards are intended to be reloaded with money for continued use.
Personal Banking Simplified
For those with limited access to banking or those looking for alternative financial tools, a prepaid card can be an affordable alternative. A prepaid card is safer than carrying cash and it allows you to enjoy more purchasing power. Instead of dealing only in cash and money orders, you can easily pay bills online, go grocery shopping, and fill up your gas tank. This also makes a prepaid card a good option for parents looking to teach their teenagers financial responsibility.
Both gift cards and prepaid cards can serve as valuable financial tools, but it is important to remember that there are key differences that need to be considered. A gift card is great for just that: gifting. If you aren't sure just what to buy a friend or loved one, you can give them the freedom to choose exactly what they want. On the other hand, a prepaid card provides an alternative to traditional banking that comes with certain protections you don’t get with gift cards. You can use a prepaid card for a variety of purposes, all without having to open a traditional bank account.