Prepaid gift cards from brands like American Express and Visa make a lot of sense in theory. Like gift cards, they release you from the psychological horror of handing your loved ones cold, hard cash, but you can use them anywhere you can use credit cards, so they offer the receiver more flexibility than a store gift card. Great!
However, if you’ve ever received one, you may have discovered that they don't work like store gift cards in one major, critical way: if you swipe, say, a $25 Macy's gift card when making a $50 Macy's purchase, it'll take the $25 off your purchase and then you can pay the remaining balance with cash or your debit card. But if you try to use a $25 Visa gift card on a $50 Macy’s purchase, the card will get declined — because you’re essentially asking it to go over its limit. The only way to keep this from happening is to tell the person ringing you up, “I want to put $25 on this card” before you swipe the Visa gift card, so they can split the tender accordingly. This isn’t ideal, but it’s fine for a nice, solid number like $25.
But! It becomes a much bigger hassle when your $100 Visa gift card now has, say, $14.77 on it. It’s highly likely that at some point, there’s going to be such a weird/small amount left on the card that you’re going to be too embarrassed to ask a retail worker to “just put $4.36 on this card,” so instead you’re just going to deprive yourself of the full value of the gift card. I’m not saying this is what Big Credit Card wants to happen, but I do think these little amounts of cash left on thousands of gift cards add up for them in a way that they…do not hate. The whole thing has annoyed me for years, ever since I was on the other end of the transaction when I worked in retail in college.
(Also: to even be able to do what I outlined above, you have to keep track of the exact balance on the gift card, which requires going to a website and inputting the card number and PIN every time you want to check how much is left on it.)
All this to say: Visa and American Express and Mastercard prepaid gift cards are way more high-maintenance than they should be, and even though this is a minor hassle in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a hassle at the end of the day. But! After receiving a high-value prepaid Visa gift card last year and getting sick of checking the balance all the time, I figured out a really simple and easy workaround that allows you to actually use every penny on said card: Once the gift card is down to a stupidly small amount that you don’t feel like fucking with, you can just go to Amazon and buy yourself an e-gift card for the exact amount on the Visa gift card. So if there’s $7.83 on the Visa card, you can simply buy yourself a $7.83 Amazon gift card.