Occasionally someone will email me who wants to buy my e-book but they don’t have a credit card or a debit card, so they can’t make an online purchase. Sending me a check or money order isn’t realistic, because if you need to pass a drug test you usually don’t have that kind of time. But if you need to buy stuff without a credit card, there are some alternatives.
Prepaid Visa or MasterCard Gift Cards
You may have seen these hundreds of times and just walked right past them. Lots of stores (grocery stores, drug stores, Wal-Mart, etc.) sell all kinds of pre-paid gift cards, including MasterCard and Visa gift cards. I think the lowest card amount you can buy is $25, plus you get charged another $5 for the card itself (I guess that’s what it costs for a credit card sized piece of plastic).
You can use the card at any store that takes credit cards, which is pretty much everywhere. And you don’t have to spend it all in one place, because the unused amount just stays on the card for a future use.
Beware – Not all gift cards can be used for online purchases!
The important thing to know about Visa and MasterCard gift cards is that not all of them can be used for online purchases. The only way to know ahead of time which ones can or can’t be used online, is to find the customer service number on the gift card packaging and call them.
Of course there’s always a customer service phone number on the back of any credit, debit or gift card, but unfortunately the card is probably glued down so that you can’t see the back unless you actually buy it. But there will often be a phone number in the fine print somewhere on the back of the packaging, so find it, and just call them right while you’re in the store and ask them. If you want a card that can be used online, and you don’t risk wasting your money, then it’s worth the few extra minutes it will take.
Here’s a tip – don’t bother asking a salesperson inside the store about whether or not a certain card can be used online. They simply don’t have that kind of information. However, they might tell you “yes” because it sounds logical, right? But just trust me – you need to go to the source and call the card company itself.
To locate a store near you that sells pre-paid Visa or MasterCard gift cards, go to this website and enter your zip code:
Why I Have Stopped Recommending Green Dot Cards
Green Dot cards are very popular pre-paid debit cards that are sold in all kinds of stores, such as Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, CVS, Walgreens, RadioShack, a ton of grocery stores, and probably lots more places I’ve never even heard of. But there are some things you should be aware of before you buy one.
I used to recommend Green Dot cards, because I know for a fact that they can be used for online purchases. I bought one once and it worked out real well for me. And if you spend an extra ten bucks for the re-loadable card, then you can buy what they call ‘MoneyPaks’ and load more money onto the card if you want. Pretty sweet, right?
But I’ve since come to learn that I may just have been lucky. There are many, many people who bought a Green Dot card and definitely didn’t have a positive experience as I did. Because more often than not, GreenDot is a scam for most people who buy them.
When I really started looking, I was kind of shocked by all the complaints you can find online about Green Dot cards. There are way too many websites to list here, but just to give you some examples of what I’m talking about you can check out these sites:
And this person had one of the worst experiences, in terms of sheer frustration:
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Just go to Google and type in “green dot complaints” or “green dot scam”, and you can find lots more posts and articles like these.
To top it off, many of the complaints I read mentioned that Green Dot’s customer service is located overseas in the Philippines. So, good luck with that.
The problem is, pre-paid debit cards like Green Dot’s don’t have the same regulatory oversight that real credit cards do. That may or may not change someday, but right now they’re operating completely within the law, technically speaking. So that means, if you have a bad experience and you think you can call some kind of consumer agency to help you, then think again.
Just to be clear here, I am not out and out telling people they shouldn’t buy a Green Dot card. Like I said before, I bought one once and it worked out okay for me. So it’s up to you, but just make sure you read the fine print very carefully, be aware of the risks, and hope for the best.
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