How To Use a Prepaid Visa Card Online—A Comprehensive Guide

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Jul 28, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

According to Softjourn, over 29 million U.S. millennials—who make up the largest demographic in the country’s workforce—prefer to get their paychecks loaded onto prepaid cards rather than issued as a check. Prepaid cards are viewed as a superior option by some because of their convenience and low associated fees. The utility of these stored-value cards is augmented by the fact that they can be used both online and in-store.

Visa® is arguably one of the most popular prepaid card network options. While these cards work seamlessly at most retail locations, some cardholders have trouble figuring out how to use a prepaid Visa card online. 

This guide breaks down where and how you can use prepaid Visa cards. You’ll also learn about virtual cards and find out what makes them a secure and convenient solution for online transactions.

What Is a Prepaid Visa Card?

A prepaid Visa card is an all-purpose, reloadable[1] payment card that uses the Visa network to complete transactions. It is not linked to a checking account or a credit line and does not require a credit check, making it accessible to unbanked or underbanked customers.

Unlike a debit card, a prepaid card has a fixed balance loaded onto it that acts as the card’s spending limit. 

You can fund your Visa prepaid card using various methods[1], such as:

  • Setting up a direct deposit with your paycheck or other regular sources of income
  • Loading and reloading the card with cash at a retail location
  • Transferring money from another prepaid or debit card

Prepaid cards in the Visa network typically come with the following benefits:

  1. Fast paycheck deposits[1] —Recurring deposits like paychecks, tax refunds, and government checks are typically quicker.
  2. Visa's Zero Liability protection[1] —Visa offers Zero Liability Policy on registered prepaid cards, covering all losses incurred by fraudulent activities. Note that the cardholder’s identity must be known to the bank that issued the card, and specific conditions must be met (like taking reasonable care to protect your card). The protection is not available for anonymous payments and certain commercial transactions.
A top-view shot of a pile of banknotes surrounding Mastercard and Visa payment cards

Source: Vardan Papikyan

Note that Visa is a card network, and the individual features of your card will depend on the card issuer you choose. Some popular Visa prepaid cards[2] are:

  • Green Dot® Visa
  • Netspend® Prepaid Visa
  • NexsCard® Prepaid Visa
  • Regions® Now Card℠
  • Midnight Prepaid Visa RushCard
  • FasterMoney® Visa Prepaid Card
  • Cashpass® Visa Prepaid Card

Where Can You Use a Prepaid Visa Card Online?

A prepaid Visa card can be used for online and in-person transactions at all locations that accept Visa debit cards. Here are some online transactions that you can make with these cards:

  • Retail purchases on e-commerce websites or apps
  • Payment for services (like food delivery)
  • Utility bills
  • Subscriptions payments

Keep in mind that some hotels may not accept prepaid cards, especially if the card doesn’t have a verifiable name or billing address. Hotels typically ask for a standard debit or credit card during online booking. Prepaid cards may be declined[3] because there’s no guarantee they have enough funds to cover the complete expenses of your stay. Read the merchant’s policies in advance if you’re unsure whether they accept prepaid cards.

How To Use a Prepaid Visa Card for Online Payment

There are three aspects to using a prepaid Visa card online:

  1. Activating the card
  2. Loading the card with funds
  3. Using the prepaid card at checkout

Activating the Card

New Visa prepaid cards need to be activated before they can be used. There are generally two ways to activate these cards:

By Calling the 800-Number Listed on the Card

Almost every Visa card has a toll-free 800-series number for customer service. You may be asked to dial the number and follow the customer representative’s instructions to activate your card. In most cases, the representative will activate your card after registering basic customer information.

By Visiting the Card Issuer’s Website or App

Most card issuers require the user to activate the card using the website of the company, financial institution, or bank. Certain issuers have dedicated apps to help users activate and manage prepaid cards.

Loading the Card With Enough Funds

Once you’ve activated the card, ensure it has enough funds for the purchase. Keep the relevant fees in mind before adding money to your card—for example, if you’re planning a purchase worth $20, you should add additional funds to cover the load and transaction fees specified by the card provider. Prepaid cards with insufficient balances will be declined at the payment gateway.

You can load and reload your Visa prepaid card by[1]:

  1. Setting up a direct deposit
  2. Adding a check using the card provider’s mobile deposit feature
  3. Visiting a ReadyLink location (adding cash)

Note that cash reloads are not available by default for all GPR prepaid cards. The processor and the issuing bank have to be integrated with the reload network directly.

A top-view shot of a person using their phone and laptop

Source: Lilly Rum

Using the Prepaid Card on the Checkout Page

An active and loaded prepaid Visa card can be used directly at checkout. Here are the steps you can generally expect:

  1. Choose a suitable option as the payment method—Merchant websites rarely have a “Pay with a prepaid card” option. You have to choose a general one, like “Pay with credit or debit card” or “Pay with Visa”, to proceed with the transaction.
  2. Enter your prepaid card credentials—Enter the card information into the payment fields displayed on the screen. The relevant data is available on the front and back of a physical prepaid card. Fill out the card number (usually 16 digits long), security or CVV code, and expiration date.
  3. Add further information as required—Once the credentials go through, the retailer may direct you to provide other information, such as your name, billing address, and phone number.
  4. Authenticate the payment—You will complete the purchase by authenticating the payment. The authentication method varies from issuer to issuer. Some card companies may ask you to provide a preset PIN, while others may follow an OTP-based verification procedure.

Limitations of Prepaid Cards—Costs and Security Risks

Prepaid cards, especially from the Visa network, can be incredibly useful for those who do not qualify for conventional payment cards. While prepaid cards enable secure transactions and can help users with money management, they may not be the best payment method for everyone.

First and foremost, prepaid cards can be pricey compared to traditional cards. A sizeable part of your loaded funds may be used to cover numerous fees, such as:

Cost Head Estimated Charges[4]
Card activation $4.95
Monthly maintenance Up to $10
Cash load/reload $1.50–$4.95
Purchase/transaction Up to $2
ATM balance inquiry $1–$3
ATM cash withdrawal $0.33–$2.50
Card declined/insufficient funds penalty $1–$20
Inactivity penalty $1.95–$8
Paper statement $0.99–$5.95


Prepaid cards (like credit and debit cards) are a common target of cybercriminals[5]. According to a 2021 report, Visa prepaid cards were twice more likely to be found on the dark web than classic cards, where they were sold for an average of $10. These cards are typically stolen from merchant websites, so you should be wary while paying online with prepaid cards.

Why Virtual Cards May Be a Smarter Payment Choice

Paying with any card implies you’re sharing your card credentials with the merchant, putting your sensitive information at risk of being stolen in case of a data breach. A virtual card remedies the situation by masking your payment credentials as you shop online.

A virtual card is an electronically generated payment card linked to the user’s bank account, debit card, or credit line. It has random credentials and security codes that can be used to transact without revealing your sensitive financial data. If a data breach occurs, the fraudsters only have access to your virtual card data, keeping your real card and bank information hidden. 

Most virtual card providers issue cards through reliable networks like Visa and Mastercard®, so the payments are processed without issues.

If you want a secure, convenient, and cost-efficient way to pay online, consider Privacy Virtual Cards. Privacy enables users to seamlessly create and manage multiple virtual cards associated with a bank account or debit card of their choice.

A shot of a person holding a payment card and adding its details on an iPad

Source: Tima Miroshnichenko

The platform offers two types of virtual cards—Single-Use Cards and Merchant-Locked Cards—that enhance the security of your transactions:

  1. Privacy’s Single-Use Cards close after the first transaction, reducing the risk of fraudulent activities in case the virtual card information is stolen from the merchant’s website.
  2. Merchant-Locked Cards link to the first merchant they’re used at. They can be used repeatedly with the chosen merchant and nowhere else, which minimizes the risk of misuse should the card become compromised.

Sign up here to get started with Privacy Virtual Cards.

Enjoy Budgeted Spending and Seamless Checkouts With Privacy Virtual Cards

Privacy is a Better Business Bureau®-accredited company focused on consumer satisfaction and security. The platform helps with money management by allowing users to set spending limits on their virtual cards.

You can customize your Privacy Cards to have limits per transaction, month, or year, making the cards suitable for:

  • Sharing with close family members or employees and ensuring they can’t go over the spending limit since you remain in charge of the card settings
  • Preventing a vendor or subscription service from you more than you’ve agreed to

Privacy also makes online shopping smoother with the help of browser extensions. The Chrome or Firefox extension will autofill the card number, CVV, and expiration date in the payment fields, preventing you from having to look for your wallet or memorize virtual card numbers.

The platform can be accessed using Android and iOS apps, which makes shopping on phones fast and convenient. 

Create your Privacy account to request virtual cards. 

Privacy Users Are in Control 24/7

Privacy Cards have an in-built fraud detection system to detect potential fraudulent activities. You will receive email alerts and push notifications every time your card is charged or declined, informing you about every transaction.

In case you notice any suspicious activity, you can close your Privacy Card immediately to prevent potential abuse of funds. You can also pause and unpause cards if you want them to be inactive temporarily. The card pausing and closing can also help you avoid paying for a subscription that you have trouble canceling. That way, you won’t be charged extra while the merchant processes your cancellation request.

Use your Privacy dashboard to review transactions and manage your virtual cards. For extra safety, you can integrate Privacy with 1Password for free. The password manager helps you store your passwords and sensitive financial data and manage them from a single platform.

Source: FLY:D

Sign Up for Privacy Effortlessly

Privacy is available to most U.S. residents over 18—here’s how to create your account in as little as three minutes:

  1. Go to the signup page
  2. Add the required KYC information
  3. Link your bank account or debit card
  4. Request and generate a Privacy Virtual Card

Most prepaid and virtual card providers charge a fee for every card you create—but not Privacy. The platform’s core service is free for domestic transactions, allowing users to create up to 12 new cards every month.

You can also opt for paid tiers with the following benefits:

Privacy Plan Price New Cards per Month Additional Benefits
Pro $10/month 36 - 1% cashback on eligible purchases (totaling up to $4,500 a month)
- Priority support
- Option to mask transaction info on bank statements
Premium $25/month 60 Same as Pro plus dedicated account management

References

[1] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/prepaid-cards/all-purpose-reloadable.html, May 2023
[2] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/find-card/get-prepaid-card, May 2023
[3] Layla Katz. Can You Book A Hotel With A Prepaid Card? https://www.go4travelblog.com/learn/book-hotel-with-prepaid-card/, June 25, 2022
[4] Erica Sandberg. How to Use a Prepaid Card Online (June 2023). https://www.cardrates.com/advice/how-to-use-a-prepaid-card-online/, May 26, 2023
[5] Chargebacks911. Prepaid Card Scams The Top 5 Threats to Watch For This Year, https://chargebacks911.com/prepaid-card-scams/, December 30, 2022
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