26

How can one transfer small balances, leftovers, on prepaid credit cards?

I actually have 6 or 7 prepaid Visa or Mastercard cards left with balances between $1 and $4. I would like to get rid of them. I do not want to throw them away.

Is there a way to transfer these small amounts to another card, PayPal, or a bank account?

The financial institutions that emit those cards probably expect us consumers to just throw them away when the amount of money left is small. That gives them still more money. I think this situation is unfair for all consumers and would like to find a way to get back my money.

My solution, so far, has been to make small donations to charities and Wikipedia like websites. What is your solution?

  • 6
    When I last had one, I inadvertently attempted to use it for a purchase larger than its remaining value. The remaining value got applied to my purchase, and I had a small balance due. Try just using them and see. (and yes, this was a prepaid Visa, not a store gift card) – ceejayoz Nov 16 '17 at 17:49
  • Adding this as a comment since I can't verify if it works: can you use the cards to add to your Venmo or PayPal balance, then withdraw the money to your bank from there? – glassy Nov 16 '17 at 18:28
  • 2
    @glassy might require extra fee. – KH.Lee Nov 17 '17 at 2:33
  • I would say this depends on the card used. Normally it should be possible to just have the money transferred to your bank account. – glglgl Nov 17 '17 at 13:00
  • 1
    "I think this situation is unfair for all consumers" ...you do realize this is almost certainly intentional? – Mehrdad Nov 18 '17 at 6:17
52

You can simply use them to pay in a supermarket or anywhere else. Just give them the card and say ‘put 1.23$ on this one please, and the rest I pay cash‘ or whatever. They might be annoyed when you have really many, but you can use up one every time you shop easily.

For some cards, you do not even have to know the remaining amount, just say use it up.
Note that supermarkets are preferable because they are typically used to that, and know how to handle it.

  • 37
    As a former supermarket worker, requests such as "I'm paying x on card and x with cash" are normal and we don't get too bothered by such requests. – AStopher Nov 16 '17 at 17:58
  • Yes I also tried this and it works. I somehow feel like a bag lady doing it, but it works. Thanks. – Armando Nov 16 '17 at 18:48
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    I'd recommend supermarkets over most other places. Various welfare schemes only covering certain types of purchases/having low dollar amounts mean that supermarket cashiers are already used to having to spread customer purchases over multiple payment methods. Staff at other businesses might not be familiar with how to do that. – Dan Neely Nov 16 '17 at 18:54
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    Most stores don't even require you to know the balance. I recently did this at Home Depot. I bought an item and handed them 2 pre-paid Visa gift cards I had lying around, and also my CC for the reamaining balance. One card had $50 and and the other had just 77 cents on it. Other than my chuckle, neither the cashier nor I cared. The only one that may have been annoyed by this was the person waiting patiently behind me. – TTT Nov 16 '17 at 19:09
  • @TTT I think it partially depends on the card. I recall having a card that would only respond pass/fail when the cashier attempted to use it. Not cool. – stannius Nov 16 '17 at 20:22
30

I had a good half dozen of these with various amounts, none of them quite enough to make a purchase anywhere and, like you, I didn't want them to go to waste.

If there is at least $1 on the card, you can use it to buy Amazon eGift cards, which is what I did. It's not as nice having actual cash, but for me it was the next best thing.

You can also use them to sign up for free trials for subscriptions. If you forget to cancel, then you're saving your normal credit card from being charged.

  • 1
    Thanks Nosrac. We now have 3 solutions: free trials (I like this one), Amazon gift card (another card though) and donations to charities. Still, our money is lost... I'm curious to hear other solutions. – Armando Nov 16 '17 at 16:55
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    @RonJohn New question "Transferring Amazon eGift card balances..." – Michael Nov 16 '17 at 23:18
  • @Michael I'd have to Google that for you. – RonJohn Nov 17 '17 at 1:30
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    @Armando Amazon gift cards don't need to involve any physical card. You buy an Amazon eGift "card" that's emailed to you and that you can redeem immediately for Amazon credit. I'm not even sure if that step is necessary anymore since you can "reload" your Amazon gift balance directly with your prepaid cards, and it all becomes credit on your Amazon account that usually will automatically be applied to any Amazon purchases you make (unless you explicitly choose a different payment method). It is one of the least inconvenient ways to consolidate prepaid cards. – jamesdlin Nov 17 '17 at 22:57
5

Spend them at the gas pump. Just run the pump until it stops, then repeat with next card. That's always worked for me

3

A few years ago, I had the rare opportunity to take advantage of a credit card offer. Specifically, a 10% cash back deal on purchases at drug stores or supermarkets. The offer was limited to 90 days, so during that time, I bought 100 cash gift cards at my local CVS.

Over the next year to use them all, when they dropped to a balance under $5 or so, I signed in to my cable TV account and charged the remaining balance there. No bothering a supermarket clerk, or store owner.

1

You can split payments, and nobody judges you because most prepaid cards are actually gift cards. They just think you have generous friends.

When you use Visa/MC at a vendor, they get dinged around 2-3% plus 35 cents flat-rate. So when you ask them to charge 77 cents to the card, you're essentially asking they give half of it to Visa/MC. Which is unfair. A charity won't turn it down, but it's wasted. So how do you solve this problem?

Use the card at places where that's not a problem

If you see a small merchant using Square or PayPal Here, their merchant agreements charge a flat rate (2.75% and 2.70% respectively) with no flat rate per transaction. If you see they are on PayPal/Square, go for it.

Obviously PayPal itself doesn't have that problem, because they have a really, really good deal with Visa and Mastercard. So feel free to buy yourself credit on your PayPal account with these residual values. Amazon probably has a similar deal.

Change spending strategy

You are getting these small amounts because you aim to pay a $22.69 bill with a card that has $25 on it. Reasonable, but it causes this.

Flip it around: pay a $22.69 bill with a card that has $20 on it, consume the $20 value, and pay the $2.69 in cash.

You may need to tell the cashier exactly the amount to charge (e.g. $20.00) especially if it is a Visa/MC card. It will certainly go faster if you do. The cashier may be able to pull up the balance, but it's an extra procedure, and an inexperienced cashier may struggle with it / have to call the manager etc. - not worth it in my book.

  • "So when you ask them to charge 77 cents to the card, you're essentially asking they give half of it to Visa/MC." A whole lot of not-my-problem. If they're willing to take that cost, that's fine, if they're not, I'll just use another method. – user60561 Nov 17 '17 at 21:17
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    @user60561 My advice is intended for people who choose retailers they like, have a sense of empathy for those retailers (particularly small businesses), and have a general sense of social responsibility all-around, and want to do the "right" thing. – Harper Nov 17 '17 at 21:32
0

Amazon luckily allows you to buy gift cards for virtually any amount, down to even a dollar. Whenever i have some random amount left on a gift card, i just go ahead and buy an Amazon e-gift card with it. FYI - this works only with e-gift cards, not physical ones

protected by Chris W. Rea Sep 4 '18 at 11:16

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