How To Use Up A Virtual Mastercard

How To Use Up A Virtual Mastercard

So you’ve received a virtual credit card, either as a gift or as a cashback reward, or maybe as payment for completing surveys. That’s great, but how do you use it all up when you’ve got an odd amount on there, or a tiny amount left over?

Here’s what we do.

What is a virtual Mastercard / virtual Visa card / virtual American Express card, anyway?

A virtual card is exactly what it sounds like – a payment card issued by a major payment processing company like Mastercard, American Express or Visa. The have the same features, such as the long card number, expiration date and CVV number.

What they don’t have, of course, is a physical card that you can put into a card machine.

You might get a virtual card from completing surveys, or, as I have, from getting my TopCashback payments made that way.

The good thing about virtual cards…

They’re actual, real money! Getting a virtual Visa or Mastercard is the same as getting real money that you can spend anywhere.

You’re not tied in to shopping at any particular store, as you would be with a store gift card.

The problem with virtual cards…

Without a plastic card to wield, you can’t just turn up at the shops and start spending. That means you’re restricted to shopping online.

Besides that, you may have an odd amount on your card, and it might be less than the item you want to buy – what then? Online merchants won’t let you split transactions like you can often do in shops.

Or what if you’re left with a few pence after making a purchase online – is that lost for good?

Sending money via PayPal from one of these cards incurs a charge, so that’s no good for saving money. Does that mean it’s a lost cause? Of course not!

Here’s how I’ve made the most out of virtual payment cards myself.

Tips to use up virtual payment cards:

1: Use them to pay your utility bills and council tax

You can usually pay down a small, odd amount on your utility bills and council tax online using a credit or debit card, even if you have a direct debit in place!

Our water bill is paid by direct debit, for example, but I am still able to make payments with a card to chip away at it. The annual amount due will be adjusted to take my card payments into account.

Our council tax doesn’t give us any financial incentive for paying by direct debit, so we use a card for that. We can make tiny top-up payments with any virtual cards we get and round out the rest on our regular card.

By using the virtual cards in this way, nothing is wasted and it all goes to essential services. The money on the card spares you using the money in your bank account, so it’s as good as trading it in for cash.


2: Use them to top up your Amazon gift card balance

This may split opinions, but if you already shop at Amazon regularly, or if you know that you have planned purchases coming up, you can use your virtual card to top up your Amazon gift card balance.

The great thing about this is that you can accumulate several tiny amounts (that you might have struggled to use in a single transaction) into one big pot, with no fees.

One problem with this is that you may have a £1 authorisation charge made on your card (think of it as a test made by Amazon) and if you’re, say, trying to buy a £5 book with a £5 card, you may find yourself short of funds and unable to use your entire balance anywhere until the transactions are refunded.

3: Use them to buy other gift cards

It may seem as though you’re going around in circles, but consider this: while you may not be able to use a virtual card in a store, many stores accept their own virtual gift cards.

Primark, for example, allows you to send an e-gift card for an odd amount. Let’s say, you’ve got £5.51 on a virtual card and you send an e-gift card for that amount. Once your friend is in store, they want to buy a top for £10, so they can use up the £5.51 on the Primark e-gift card and pay the additional £4.49 in cash.

Look out for e-gift card retailers that don’t charge fees, though. It’s because of the fees that buying physical gift cards doesn’t make much financial sense. However, if that’s what you want, and are happy to absorb the fees, you can also buy physical gift cards.

Over to you…

Hopefully this gave you some helpful ideas on how to use up all of the cash on your virtual payment card! Leave your own ideas in the comments below.

How To Use Up A Virtual Mastercard
Pin for later!

Like this? Read these:


  1. I’ve hit a problem with using one of these cards at Amazon. Payment was declined and when I look at my balance, Amazon have “Authorised” but not posted a transaction for £1.00, which left insufficient balance to pay for my order. Have removed the payment card from my Amazon account and now have to wait for that transaction to be cancelled before I can try again (probably elsewhere).

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for commenting – that’s a really good point about the £1 authorisation charge. It can be a real pain. I’ll make sure the article points this out!

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I’d been trying for weeks to find a way to use up several small balances before they expired. I never thought that they could be added to my utility bill, a brilliant idea, far better than looking for little things to buy that I didn’t even need.

  3. This was so helpful, thanks! Couldn’t find a way of using up these prepaid Mastercards but using them towards my broadband/TV bill has worked a treat.

  4. Some useful suggestions, but one thing to watch out for is the minimum transaction amount. For example, the minimum top-up that Amazon will accept is one pound, so if you have less than a quid remaining on your prepaid card, Amazon wouldn’t be an option.

    1. Hi, as far as I know the only way to be able to do that would be to use both to buy something worth £60, so you’d need to find a merchant that allowed you to split transactions between different cards or add them to a balance, like with Amazon.

  5. I have a virtual mastercard from ipsos survey rewards. I have tried to register it with Paypal but part of that process requires me to look on my `statement’ for a minor transaction and an associated code number. I then am required to enter this code into Paypal to complete the card registration. My query is: where can I view the virtual Mastercard statement??

  6. This whole premise is stupid for those of us who don’t shop online much and don’t use Apple pay or Google pay. Pretty stupid, but it is the world we now live in.

  7. At McDonalds you can use two credit cards per transaction, however, you cannot use there, and if the first two combined are insufficient, they will NOT refund the money because they are behaving illegally.

    ….Obviously, you can NOT buy a gift card with the leftover money, because all gift cards have a “minimum amount” so you can NOT buy a gift card at any store for 62¢. In fact, in the vast majority of stores you can’t even buy a plastic card in the store for 62¢, they STILL require $5 in most stores!

  8. So glad I found this, thank you! I’ve had 70p sitting on one of these cards for months, but just used it against my council tax bill. Absolutely tiny but it’s not gone to waste!

  9. Brilliant. I just got one with my new BT Broadband install and I’ve used it to pay off £50 on my energy bill. Great advice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.