After a few weeks of research I finally invested in a prepaid re-loadable Visa Card. I shopped around at various financial institutions and money outlets in my community, and then widen my search to the Internet looking at on-line options and at some of the more well know money exchange sites. After looking at cost, usability and comparing gift cards versus re-loadable cards, I found what I think is the best deal for me- the Canada Post Visa.
What I learned about these money instruments are that they are not cheap; however, they are better in some cases when comparing to money orders and cheques. Everything has a price, a cost of using it, and some play better than others. For example, one company I looked at, Money Mart, was so expensive, and restrictive that I sent them an email asking why their product was so over priced. They never responded, but I am sure they are targeting a specific group of people who are laden with financial troubles, and those customers will, without spending the time to do research, go to the nearness store to get a well a marketed product that offers the same product that a Charted Bank does. You will find that for prepaid Visa cards, and other companies with similar products do not require you to have a bank account, nor a credit check.
Some of the basic functions/cost of a prepaid, re-loadable Visa card
Here is a break down of the fee structure, a thumbnail sketch, of how these cards work. First, you will have a activation fee. The Canada Post Card has its fee set at $15.00. This is a one time fee. Second, There a fee for loading money onto the card. In the case of Canada Post, it is $3.00. Third, there are monthly fees, these are for keeping your account active, kind of like administration fees. These fees vary, from $3.00 to $6.00. All cards have them. Next, there are re-load fees and user fees, so each time to use the card a small fee is subtracted from the balance. Say you took a cash withdrawal at an ATM, you will get a fee taken off from your end, and a service charge from the company of the ATM. Lastly, there are no interest charges! Do your homework, know these fees and how they work. They are very simple, and you should have your information on hand at all times to keep track of your balance and what to expect.
Checking your balance
The Canada Post card has a wonderful on-line balance checker. I love it. It is free, and it shows all of your activities over a three month period. Some of the other Banks that I looked at required a fee for using their on-line service, so look out for that. I should also point out too that you will be charged a fee for phoning a customer representative.
Yes it works. Just like a Credit Card Visa, the prepaid Visa does the same trick for buying on-line. I used mine twice already and it works fine. As soon as I bought the card, I took it home and started using it. However, I can only go a maximum of $500.00 on the temporary card first, and I must wait until I get the usable card in the mail, 14 days later. Once I get the new card in the mail, the maximum balance I can carry is $10,000.00. If I let the card run out, oh well, it dies, no extra costs, it just dies, I get another one, for another small fee. So I may keep this card as long as I can if I continue to do regular on-line shopping with it: $15.00 start-up fee versus the monthly $3.00 fees?
There are limits to what a prepaid Visa can do, but I will not go into that. Really look into what your needs are before you commit to buying a card. I got the card for on-line shopping, something that I wanted peace of mind to use without the worrying of getting scammed or over charged. I load a specific amount of money into the card, and spend it accordingly.
This post is not an exhaustive analysis of these various types of money instruments. I do not work for, nor fully endorse these companies mentioned in this post. I am not an expert, or a paid professional in financial matters.