Completely Use Up Prepaid Credit Cards With Split Tender Transactions

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Here’s a quick tip for using up those last few dollars of a prepaid Visa, Mastercard, or American Express cards with bonuses. When you use up the last bit of an store-specific gift card, the register zeroes out the card automatically and tells you the remaining amount owed. However, if you try this with a prepaid debit or credit card and the amount charged exceeds the amount on the card, you’ll usually just get a flat rejection. This does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the card!

The solution? The way to use up the remaining balance on a prepaid-style credit card is to ask for a “split tender” transaction. First, you’ll need to find out the remaining balance on the card using the phone number on the back or by checking the appropriate website. Let’s say it’s $2.57.

Next, go to a store and make a purchase exceeding that number, let’s say $10. Now, ask the cashier for a split tender transaction. You must ask them to charge exactly $2.57 to the prepaid card, and then you can charge the rest on another credit card or pay it with cash. This way, the system won’t be asking for more charging limit than your card actually has.

Smaller retailers might either not know how to do a split tender transaction, or their (point-of-sale) POS system may simply be outdated and not be able to perform one. However, I’ve never had a problem with asking for a split tender transaction at Target or Wal-mart, and I would suspect similar results at other large retailers as they will have modern POS systems. At the very least, you’d just need to switch to a more experienced cashier.

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  1. is there a limit to how many cards we can use on one transaction? For example, can I use 5 at once at a walmart?

  2. @mike – You should be able to use multiple cards, yes.

  3. Thanks for the tip. This is really helpful actually, because I use prepaid visa cards for my online businesses (it’s a little dangerous giving out your real credit card number). I always have $2-4 left in the balance that I can’t use.

  4. I manage a retail store and often work the registers. It is remarkable how many people have these cards and have no idea how much money is left on them. They expect our point-of-sale system to be able to tell how much is left, but it cannot.

    @mike – There is no limit on how many cards you can use on one transaction as far as the point-of-sale system is concerned, but the cashier may try to kill you.

  5. Two other ways to drain these cards. 1) Send the money to your SO via Amazon Payments or 2) Buy e gift cards on Amazon >= $1 and add them to your Amazon gift card balance.

    • be careful with this method. I tried it today and it failed because Amazon sent a pre authorization charge of $1 to the gift card (which went through but made my balance $1 less than what I was trying to spend). When they then tried to get the full payment amount for my purchase, the balance was $1 short so it was declined

  6. I had a prepaid (debit?) card (VISA) that I used at Ikea over the weekend. The total due was more than the card held, but the system automatically subtracted the card balance and then told me I owed the remainder. No need for manually specifying anything.

  7. More and more POS systems are able to automatically charge just the remaining balance. It was a surprise to me – I was still living in the antiquated world of when I started out cashiering in a grocery store. Back then we had no idea of your balance, but even then we could easily do a split transaction even if most cashiers didn’t know how.

  8. Balance is our private info, cashier should not ask about that. System will let them know if there is money still due (as Aaron pointed out)

  9. @Jonathan
    Did you receive the $25 gift cards from American Express for the $200 prepaid cards we purchased last month? Like you said earlier, I was a little worried about emptying out (zeroing out) the balance on the prepaid cards before I received the $25 gift cards.

  10. In my experience, using the remainders at the gas pump has worked just fine. The pump reads the card and authorizes the exact amount remaining. The pump slows down and shuts off when you meet the available balance on the card.

    I’m not sure if only the most modern pumps have this capability, but I’ve done it at several different gas stations.

    This way there’s no inconvenience when you’re standing in line and the split tender is too reminiscent of my college days when I NEEDED two credit cards to cover the cost of a $7 grocery trip for ramen.

  11. Costco will use up AMEX gift cards to the last penny without having to specify anything – works in the self checkout too.

  12. Squeezer @Personal Finance Success says

    I have always done this at walmart and kroger. They can split transactions without any problems. Another option is to partially pay your cellphone or cable bill with a credit card their their website.

  13. I just used the self-checkout at Walmart and it allowed me to use the gift card balance and a credit card for the remainder.

  14. playcentric says

    Andy – I called AMEX and was told it won’t close card even balance=0.

    I did the same $200 prepaid Promo in June. Would like to know when anyone receives the $25 Gift card.

  15. I’ve tried to use prepaid cards at gas stations before but they usually won’t work at the pump. You can go inside and specify how much you’re charging and use the card in one swoop and not have to worry about using up a small balance.

    When I don’t use a card all at once though ssing the split tender at a Wal-Mart or Target has always worked for me.

  16. @playcentric. If you initiated the app/load during the first week of the promo (week of 6/3) the gift cards are supposed to be received this week. The T&Cs stated that gift cards would be received 6 weeks after the load. This week is the 6th week since the initial kickoff(load/app) week.

  17. @ playcentric
    @ MAC
    Thank you both. Please let me know if either of you receive your gift cards. I initiated the app/load transactions around the middle of June. Would like to know when people start receiving their gift cards so I can estimated how much I need to wait further.
    If/when I receive my gift cards, I’ll post and let everybody know.

  18. This won’t work at many retailers. Lots of places put a $1.00 pre-authorization hold on your card prior to running the card for the full amount. This charge is to make sure the card is good, and facilitiates checking of the CVV number and billing address or zip code (which some retailers actually do). The pre-auth charge is immediately removed after the transaction is complete, but if you’re trying to use up the balance of the gift card, you won’t be able to use that last dollar becasue of the hold.

    This is the reason that pre-paid cards won’t work at most gas pumps — their hold is usually around $50, and is designed to make sure your card won’t decline (since you’d already have the gas at that point).

  19. @Andy. Got 1 $25 gift card 7/21 for prepaid card credited with $200 load om 6/11. Waiting on the others that were loaded later.

  20. @ MAC
    Thank you MAC. I received all three $25 prepaid gift cards on Saturday as well (7/21). My $200 load had processed on June 11 (for 2 of them) and June 13 (for the 3rd).
    I hope you receive your others soon too.

    Btw, I happened to read the Terms & Conditions on prepaid gift cards. The transactions made with these are not disputable if things go awry, unlike credit cards or debit cards!

  21. AT&T bill pay over the web is good for dumping small amounts from prepaid cards or making small transactions on your “back of the wallet” credit cards to keep the accounts alive. I think now you can have three transactions per day for any amount you enter. And you don’t have the cashier and other customers frowning at you for saying “$1.92 on this one and …”.

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