You’ve received a copy of your credit report and are looking it over when you see information that doesn’t look familiar. Looking into it, you discover that your credit card number was stolen to make purchases and that your identity may have been compromised.
Identity theft and credit card fraud can impact your creditworthiness or temporarily leave you without access to funds if your debit card was involved. In an effort to help better protect their money, accounts, and identity, consumers are using prepaid cards as another payment option.
Prepaid cards look similar to a credit or debit card, but can be purchased from a retailer and loaded with a certain amount of money, all without being associated with your name. If the card is stolen, the money loaded onto it may be lost, but because your financial institution information is not typically associated with the account, there may be a lower risk of your identity being compromised. They may also be helpful for consumers looking to control their spending habits, since once the money on them is spent, they are empty until a consumer reloads them.
Prepaid cards may also include fees. Monthly fees, reloading fees, and transaction-based fees are fairly common among these cards, so be sure to read the terms and conditions that apply to prepaid cards.
Here are three scenarios where you may want to consider using a prepaid card.
1. Online Shopping
When you make purchases online using a debit card or credit card, your financial institution information can potentially be vulnerable. Malware can steal this data from your device and data breaches can expose it to cybercriminals looking to make purchases in your name. While you are typically minimally liable for unauthorized uses of your credit card if you report it quickly, if you don’t report quickly, your liability and maximum loss increases.
Using a prepaid card to purchase something online means that if the card’s information is stolen, it can only be used for as much money as the card has on it.
2. A night on the town
If you are going out for the night, especially to a city or area you are unfamiliar with, you may plan on only carrying a card and a form of identification in your pocket. In this case, a prepaid card might be more convenient–in the event you lose your card at some point. This is especially apt in situations where you may not be able to easily or quickly check your bank account balance or credit card statement.
Consumers could also give these prepaid cards to their children if they are going away for a trip or vacation. You can load money onto it and not worry about the risks of your child losing the card (or overspending).
Prepaid cards can be especially convenient when travelling, since identity thieves may be more prevalent in well-known tourist areas. If your wallet is stolen in a foreign country, you may not be able to immediately cancel your debit and credit cards or alert the authorities if you don’t have access to a computer or are unfamiliar with the city.
Because prepaid cards are not tied to your personal data such as banking accounts and social security numbers, a thief will only be able to potentially steal the amount on the card. Loading money onto a prepaid card may also help you better track your spending while away and keep your finances in check.
Dustin Pellegrini is a senior web producer and writer at Think Glink Media, where he specializes in reporting on identity protection and credit. He studied writing and visual media at Columbia College Chicago.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.