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.
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.