December 17, 2010

Top Ten General Purpose Prepaid Gift Cards for 2010

prepaid general purpose bank gift cards With the increase in popularity of gift cards, pre-paid general purpose gift cards issued by financial institutions have also proliferated. In the past, these types of gift cards were laden with abhorrent fees. However, with the gift card provisions of the CARD Act of 2009 now in effect, prepaid gift cards are now more consumer friendly. There are still fees, just not as obscene as before. For example, periodic fees are limited only one per month and only after one year of inactivity. One time fees, such as purchase, issuance, activation, replacement, cash-out fees are still allowed but needs to be fully disclosed.

With scores of prepaid general purpose gift cards out there, we’ve done the heavy lifting to shift through all the disclosures to find the best ones. Ranking is based on several factors such as fees and features. Compare the different fees and features of the cards below. In addition, be sure to check the full terms and conditions as it could have changed from when the cards were evaluated for this article.

Legend
  • Fee for purchasing or activating card.
  • No dormancy or maintenance fees.
  • No expiration date.
  • Card and/or funds replaced after loss or theft?
  • Free standard shipping.
  • Can card holder cash out remaining balance?

Purchase fee is per card. The cash out option refers to redeeming gift card’s remaining balance, typically contingent on card having expired and for a fee.

Pre-paid Gift Cards Notes
American Express Gift Card $3.95 Shipping fee is per order.
Discover Gift Card $3.95 $2.50
Univision MasterCard $3.95+ $2.00 Tiered purchase fee. $5.95 liquidation fee.
KeyBank MasterCard Gift Card $3.95 $2.50 In bank purchases only. $1 ATM withdraw fee. $9.95 liquidation fee.
Navy Federal Credit Union Visa No fee $5.00 Only available for credit union members. $5 replacement and $10 liqudiation fee.
Wells Fargo Visa Gift Card $3.95 $2.50 purchase fee for bulk orders, 10 minimum. $7.50 replacement fee. $15 liquidation fee.
GiftCards.com Visa $2.95+ $4.95 Tiered purchase fee. $4.95 replacement fee.
Western Union (MetaBank) $5.00 $2.50 $5 replacement fee.
Chase Visa Gift Card $3.50+ $2.50 Tiered purchase fee. $12 replacement & liquidation fee.
USBank Visa Gift Card $3.95+ $2.50 Tiered purchase fee. $15 replacement & liquidation fee. Shipping fee is per card.
  1. American Express Gift Card ranks at the top for consumer as there are no post purchase fees and never expires. Lost and stolen cards are replaced for free. Occasionally, American Express gives out promo codes that waive the purchase fee, thus making these general purpose gift cards an excellent offer. Some minor downside is that AMEX is not as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard and cannot be liquidated for cash.
  2. Discover Gift Card is very similar to American Express. However, there is a $2.50 monthly dormancy fee after one year of inactivity. Free standard shipping is included with online purchase. Promo codes are available but not as frequently available as American Express. Discover is the least widely accepted of the major credit cards.
  3. Univision MasterCard Gift Card has a tiered purchase fee based on value of the gift card being purchased and starts at $3.95. It also has a relatively low dormancy fee and offers free replacements and free shipping for online purchases. Another benefit is that the card holder can cash out the balance for a fee of $5.95.
  4. KeyBank MasterCard Gift Card is the only prepaid bank gift card evaluated that allows for cash withdraw from ATMs for $1 fee per withdraw. Beware that ATM owners can also charge an ATM fee. Online purchase of cards is not available. Card holders can also liquidate remaining balance for a $10 fee.
  5. Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Gift Card has no purchase fee. However, does have high dormancy fee and does charge for lost replacement and liquidation. Even with these fees, it is one of the more consumer friendly Visa prepaid gift cards. Unfortunately, the card is only available for purchase by credit union members. Check if you qualify for credit union membership.

If you know of any prepaid general purpose gift cards that should be on the list, let us know. Comments are welcome.

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