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The Vanilla Prepaid Card is really good if you want to gift someone money and you don’t like cash. Who doesn’t like cash? Actually, many people who shop online and don’t have a credit card or a debit card prefer a prepaid card to dollar bills.

A prepaid card is a great alternative to a regular credit card, especially if you can’t secure a traditional card due to your current credit score and financial profile. Prepaid cards come with many of the perks of a credit card without the need for you to undergo a hard credit check and rigorous approval process.

There are several prepaid card options available, including the Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard or Vanilla Prepaid Visa. However, are these prepaid cards better than reloadable ones like KOHO?

Let’s take a deeper look into the Vanilla Prepaid Card to help you decide if it’s right for you. 

What Is The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard? 

You can use the Vanilla Prepaid Card like a conventional credit or debit card to shop online or in-store almost anywhere they accept credit. However, there’s no credit involved. 

You cannot get into consumer debt using a prepaid card because you load it with your own money. You also cannot get a cash advance or loan from a prepaid card.

Instead, the card comes with a preloaded amount. You can choose from a variety of denominations when you buy a Vanilla Prepaid Card.

Prepaid Visa Vs Prepaid Mastercard

Both the prepaid Visa and Mastercard work the same way: you buy a card with a specific value, and can spend up to that dollar amount. Once the value is spent, the card is no longer viable. Until then, you can use the card like a credit or debit card. 

The difference between the two cards is that the Prepaid Visa can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, while the Prepaid Mastercard can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted. Most major retailers take both, though there are some that only take one or the other. 

Watch out at Costco

Who doesn’t go to Costco for good deals and free snacks? Costco and No-Frills take cash and Mastercard. That means that a Vanilla Prepaid Visa is not an option.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard?

There are typically only two fees associated with the Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard:

Activation fee. When you first buy a Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard, you’ll be charged an activation fee at the time of purchase, which ranges from $3.95 to $7.95.

Foreign exchange fee. If you use your Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard to make purchases in other currencies, you’ll be charged a 2.5% foreign exchange service fee on these transactions.

How Do You Use A Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard?

You can use your Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard just like you would a regular credit or debit card. The exact method of use depends on whether you’re shopping online or in-store.

How To Use The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard To Make An Online Purchase 

When shopping online, enter your postal code when checking out. Then, continue with the regular checkout process, which typically entails entering your card number, name, and shipping address.

How To Use The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard To Make A In-Store Purchase

If you’re using your Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard to shop at a physical store, simply present your card to the cashier at the point of sale and choose “credit” as your form of payment. 

Regardless of which way you’re shopping, the balance of your prepaid card will be reduced by the purchase amount each time you use the card. As long as the card’s balance is sufficient, you can continue using the card to make online or in-store purchases. 

Where Can You Get A Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard?

Vanilla Prepaid Mastercards are available for purchases at a variety of popular merchants in Canada, including the following:

  • Walmart
  • 7-Eleven
  • Petro-Canada
  • Shell
  • London Drugs
  • Giant Tiger
  • Express Mart
  • Ultramar
  • Best Buy

How Do You Activate Your Prepaid Card?

The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard is activated at the time of purchase. Make sure the cashier activates it before you finalize the transaction. Then, sign the back of the card as you would with a regular credit or debit card. 

Pro Tip For Using A Vanilla Prepaid Card

You may also want to write the card number down and store it safely just in case your card is lost or stolen. 

How Much Can You Load Onto Your Card?

You can buy a Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard in one of the following denominations:

  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $200
  • $20-$500 

The Vanilla Prepaid Card is not a reloadable card. Once you’ve spent the value of the card, you’ll need to buy a new one.

How Do You Check Your Card Balance?

It’s important to know how much you have on your prepaid card before you use it to ensure you have enough to cover the transaction. To check your balance, sign in to your Vanilla Prepaid account online by entering the following:

  • Card number
  • Expiration date
  • CVV number on the back of the card

Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard Card Alternatives

While the Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard is a convenient product, there are other options available that you may find better suit you:  

KOHO Mastercard 

The KOHO prepaid Mastercard can be used like a debit or credit card. You can earn cash back rewards every time you use your card and interest on money saved in your KOBO account. The card comes in four different tiers: Easy, Essential, Extra, and Everything plans.

Easy plan:

  • Free 
  • Ear 1% cash back on groceries and transportation.
  • Earn 0.5% interest on your account balance.

Essential plan:

  • $4/month or $48/year
  • Earn 1% cash back on groceries, food and beverages, and transportation.
  • Get 0.25% back on everything else.
  • Earn 1.5% interest on your account balance.

Extra plan:

  • $9/month, or $84/year
  • Earn 2% cash back on groceries, food and beverages, and transportation, and 0.5% on everything else.
  • Earn 2% interest earned on your account balance.
  • Credit building for only $7 per month.

Everything Plan

  • $19/month or $228/year
  • Earn 2% cash back on groceries, food and beverages, and transportation, and 0.5% on everything else.
  • Earn 4% interest earned on your account balance.
  • Credit building for only $5 per month.

BMO Prepaid Mastercard

The BMO Prepaid Mastercard can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted. You can spend as little as $100 up to a maximum of $10,000. 

The card features Zero Liability protection in case of fraudulent use, extended warranty and purchase protection, and Mastercard Identity Check to protect you when you shop online. 

You can check your credit score for free without impacting your credit health by accessing CreditView any time of the day.

BMO Prepaid Mastercard charges an annual fee of $6.95, though no interest is charged on purchases and cash advances.

Final Thoughts

If you can’t secure a traditional credit card and are looking for a similar product that comes with many of the same functionalities as a traditional card, a Vanilla Prepaid Card is an option. However, the card is not reloadable. Plus it has heavy fees which eat up the usable cash amount on the card. You are decreasing the purchasing power of your cash. Finally, those fees do not help you build your credit score or credit history.

A Vanilla Prepaid Card is very good for people under 18 who cannot yet get a credit card or reloadable credit building prepaid product.

It is also good as a gift for people of all ages where you only want to give them something that they can use online or can replace if lost. That is a major advantage to cash when you are travelling or just want to secure your money better.

However, if you’re looking for a prepaid card that comes with other perks — like cash back rewards, credit building options, and budgeting tools — there are other products available to consider. 

Vanilla Prepaid Card - FAQs

Can a Vanilla Prepaid Card or KOHO Mastercard tell me my credit score?
Neither Vanilla Prepaid Cards nor KOHO Mastercards can give you your free credit score. You can, however, check your free credit score if you have the BMO Prepaid Mastercard. You can also get your free credit score without buying or signing up for any prepaid card when you use services like Compare Hub by Loans Canada.

How do I activate my Vanilla Prepaid Card?

Your Vanilla Prepaid Card must be activated at the point of sale. Make sure the cashier activates the card before you complete the transaction. 

Can I use my Vanilla Prepaid Card to shop online?

Yes, you can use the card like a regular credit card, including to shop online. Simply enter your card number and postal code when you check out.  

How do I contact customer support? 

You can contact Vanilla Prepaid customer support in the following ways: By phone: 1-833-502-6535 (for cards starting with 520356) or 1-800-652-9174 (for cards starting with 533621)  By mail:  Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard Card Customer Care  P.O. Box 48235  595 Burrard St.  Vancouver, BC  V7X 1A

If my prepaid card is lost or stolen, how do I get a refund or a replacement card?

Reach out to Customer Care right away if your card has been lost or stolen. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide your card number and other information to verify your identity. You must provide all required information in order to receive a replacement card.

What happens when my prepaid card expires?

Even if the card expires, the funds on the card don’t. If you’re still carrying a balance on your prepaid card when it expires, reach out to Customer Care to request a replacement card.
Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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