What is a Prepaid Cards Processor?

A prepaid cards processor is a company that processes transactions for prepaid payment cards. Prepaid card processors are responsible for processing transactions for prepaid credit or debit cards, gift cards, payroll cards, and other payment cards that are considered secured by the front-loading of money.

Key Takeaways

  • A prepaid cards processor works with prepaid cards to allow a cardholder to conduct transactions without the use of cash, but limits the size of the transaction to the amount of money available on the card.
  • Prepaid payment cards are typically more customizable than cards issued by banks and other financial institutions. This is because the needs of the organization offering the card can vary greatly.

How a Prepaid Cards Processor Works

A prepaid cards processor works with prepaid cards to allow a cardholder to conduct transactions without the use of cash, but limits the size of the transaction to the amount of money available on the card.

Prepaid cards are secured cards, meaning that the value of the card is limited to the amount of cash that has been loaded onto the card’s account. For example, a gift card may have a maximum value of $50 if only $50 has been loaded to that account at the point at which the card was activated. Requiring prepayment before activation limits the exposure of the issuing company to a precise value, unlike an unsecured card linked to a line of credit. Some types of prepaid cards also have a penalty fee for disuse or use past a set time limit.

Prepaid card processors are unlikely to provide point-to-point encryption (P2PE) because they do not provide a direct link between the point-of-interaction, such as the card terminal at a merchant, and the processor. Instead, prepaid card processors are responsible for the payment processing component of the transaction. This requires the processor to record purchase information and manage the account balance of the prepaid card, as well as manage chargebacks, returns, and payment disputes.

Examples of Prepaid Cards

Examples of prepaid cards include gift cards and phone cards but can also be used in government aide programs instead of sending a periodic check. Prepaid cards are often re-loadable and may require the card holder to set a pin number in order to use it and minimize theft.

Keep in mind that most prepaid cards are a "use it or lose it" scenario. This means that any value left on the cards and never used, benefit the issuer of the prepaid cards. Even if a prepaid card only holds a few dollars, it makes wise sense to use all of its value before throwing it away.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Prepaid Cards Processor

Prepaid payment cards are typically more customizable than cards issued by banks and other financial institutions. This is because the needs of the organization offering the card can vary greatly. Large credit card processors, such as VISA, are frequently involved in this line of business, though smaller businesses may also provide prepaid card processing services.

Prepaid cards through a prepaid cards processor can be a convenient way for organizations to procure funds for their clients or recipients, but they do carry a risk of being misused or even stolen. For instance, because the value of a prepaid card is carried entirely within the card, if it is stolen or given to the wrong individual, the value may not be able to be recovered.