How to Use Up the Last Few Dollars in Visa/MasterCard/AMEX Debit Prepaid Cards

Visa/MasterCard/AMEX debit prepaid cards are widely available via large grocery and pharmacy chain stores such as Safeway, CVS, or office supply stores such as Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot.  Purchasing these prepaid cards typically come with a surcharge fee.  For example, there is a $5.95 fee for a $500 MasterCard prepaid card from Safeway, or $6.95 fee for a $200 MasterCard prepaid card from Staples.  (The fee is higher at office supply stores, because higher fee deters abuses.  Chase Ink card holder earns 5x Ultimate Reward points for all office supply store purchases including prepaid cards and gift cards, whereas grocery store purchase earns 2x American Express Membership points with American Express Premier Gold card holder.)

Why would you purchase a Visa/MasterCard/AMEX debit prepaid card if there is a fee?

You may own one of these debit prepaid card, because
  1. your company gave the card to you as a gift
  2. you are a few hundred or thousand reward miles/points short to redeem something you want
  3. or, there is a bonus offer from card vendor which compensates more than the cost of the small surcharge fee.  For example, $10 coupon from Safeway, $25 rebate from Staples, OfficeMax.
Regarding no 2 reason, a $500 debit prepaid card from Safeway would earn 1011.9 American Express membership points.  A $200 debit prepaid card from Staples would earn 1034.75 Chase Ultimate Reward points.  It is better to spend $200 or $500 to earn 1000 reward points.  There are many brands and types of Visa/MasterCard debit prepaid cards.  If the Visa/MasterCard debit prepaid card allows PIN set up, and resembles the one I always bought, you can even cash out the prepaid cards using methods I shared earlier (namely Amazon payments, AMEX BlueBird, Walmart ATM kiosk).  BlueBird and Walmart ATM kiosk do not accept American Express prepaid cards.  Then, American Express membership points and Chase Ultimate Reward points can be redeemed for flight or hotel rewards.

How to Use up the last few dollars in your debit prepaid cards?

Time is money, so you would not like spending much effort or time when there is only a couple dollars left in the cards. The following are my favorite options.
  • (Visa/MasterCard/AMEX) Purchase Amazon e-gift card which allows any dollar amount.
  • (Visa/MasterCard only) Pay water and garbage bill online. I found my utility service provider accepts any amount of payment without incurring a $1 temporary holding fee.
  • (AMEX only) Pay for Costco in-store purchases.  Simply inform the receptionist that you have a few AMEX prepaid cards to use, before charging your Costco AMEX credit card.  Last time, I used up three AMEX prepaid cards of which each had a few dollars left.
  • (Visa/MasterCard/AMEX) Pay for purchases made at gas stations.  Inform the gas station receptionist exactly how much the prepaid card still has.  This option is more applicable when credit left in the debit gift card can bring you more than one gallon of gasoline.  Would you go to the gas station cash register and ask to fill $1.75 of gasoline?
I am sure there are more options available.  Identify those that are most convenient and makes sense to you.  It is possible that none of these options are necessary for you, for example, if you rarely own a debit prepaid card.

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