Prepaid cards like the Vanilla Prepaid Card (Visa or Mastercard) are easy to purchase and are popularly used as gifts.
Whether it is a birthday, graduation, or retirement, you can easily gift someone a Vanilla prepaid gift card, and they can use the funds to buy whatever they want.
That said, Vanilla prepaid cards have taken a bad rap for the fees they charge and several other limitations.
This Vanilla Prepaid Card review covers how it works, its pros and cons, and alternative prepaid cards you can use to earn rewards and save on fees.
What is the Vanilla Prepaid Card?
Vanilla Prepaid Cards are “prepaid cards,” i.e. they are not credit cards, and you can only spend the funds already loaded on the card.
For example, if the card you purchase has a $100 denomination, the most you can spend with the card following activation is $100.
Vanilla Prepaid Cards are available as:
- Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard, or
- Vanilla Prepaid Visa cards
The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard is available in $25, $50, $100, and $200 denominations.
The Vanilla Visa Prepaid Card is available in $25, $50, $75, $100, $150, $200, and $250 denominations.
The two prepaid cards are not reloadable, which is a major downside. Both the Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard and Vanilla Visa Prepaid Card are issued by Peoples Trust Company, under license from Mastercard and Visa, respectively.
In addition to these two prepaid cards, you may also have come across other Vanilla products, including:
- One Vanilla
- MyVanilla Card, and
- Vanilla Reload
Vanilla prepaid cards can be purchased at several retailers like Walmart, 7-11, London Drugs, Best Buy, Petro-Canada, Giant Tiger, Shell, and Ultramar.
Related: Best Virtual Credit Cards in Canada
How Do Vanilla Prepaid Cards Work?
After purchasing the Vanilla Prepaid Card, you need to sign it on the back.
It is also recommended that you write down the card number and customer service number in case the card becomes lost or stolen.
When making a payment, simply present your card as you would for a credit card transaction. For online purchases, you will need to add your postal code to your card. You can accomplish this by logging into your online account.
Vanilla Prepaid Card Fees
There is an initial activation fee when you purchase the card.
For the Vanilla Prepaid Visa, the activation fees are as follows:
There is also a 2.5% foreign exchange service fee when you make payments in a currency other than Canadian dollars.
Pros of The Vanilla Prepaid Card
The main benefit of this card is that you can simply walk into a store and buy it. There are no credit checks, and you get a card that works in most places where either Visa or Mastercard are accepted.
Also, your funds don’t expire, and you can request a replacement card when your prepaid card has expired.
Cons of The Vanilla Prepaid Card
There are many limitations and downsides to the Vanilla Prepaid Card:
- There is an activation fee ranging between $3.95 and $7.95
- The card is not accepted at gas stations
- The card is not reloadable, and there is a $500 maximum limit for balances and daily spend
- It cannot be used at ATMs or for withdrawing cash at point-of-sale
- The Vanilla Prepaid Card cannot be used for recurring billing
- You cannot transfer your balance to another prepaid card
- It does not offer any rewards, such as cash back
Vanilla Prepaid Card Alternatives
The following prepaid cards are free and offer benefits, including cash back rewards, access to early paycheques, and more.
1. KOHO Prepaid Mastercard
KOHO Prepaid Mastercard
Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on groceries and transportation; Up to 5% cashback at select partners; Earn interest on your balance*.
Welcome offer: Get a $20 bonus when you load and make your first purchase (use promo code CASHBACK during sign-up).
Interest rate fee: 0%
Annual fee: $0
The KOHO Prepaid Mastercard is a free reloadable card you can use to make payments online, in-store, and abroad.
Users get a physical card in the mail and a virtual card (instantly) they can add to Apple Pay or Google Pay or use directly.
This card can be used at millions of locations worldwide, and it offers:
- Up to 5% cash back on purchases at select retailers and 1% cash back on groceries
- A free budgeting app you can use to track your income and expenses
- Savings interest rate on your balance
If you’d like to earn a higher cash back rate (2% for three categories of spending and 5% at partners) and pay zero FX fees when you shop abroad, you can upgrade to KOHO Premium for a $9 monthly or $84 annual fee.
The free KOHO Mastercard also comes with unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers.
You can apply here and get a $20 bonus after making your first purchase/payment.
2. EQ Bank Card
EQ Bank Card
Earn 2.50%* interest on your balance
0.50% cash back on purchases
No monthly account or FX fees
Free ATM withdrawals
The EQ Bank Card is a recent addition to its suite of financial products. It is one of the best prepaid cards in Canada.
If you already have a savings account with the bank, you can easily request a card from your dashboard. If not, you can get the free Mastercard by opening an EQ Savings Plus Account online.
The EQ Bank Card offers several benefits, including:
- 3.00% savings interest on your entire balance
- 0.50% unlimited cash back on all purchases
- Free ATM withdrawals anywhere in Canada
- No foreign currency exchange fees when making payments in a foreign currency (saving you up to 3% on fees)
- No monthly or annual fees
To fund your card, simply transfer money from your savings account to it. The Savings Plus Account includes unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions.
3. Wealthsimple Cash Card
Wealthsimple Cash Card
1% cash back on all purchases
Free money transfer app
Access to virtual and physical card
The Wealthsimple Cash Prepaid Visa Card is a free reloadable card that offers cash back rewards.
Users earn 1% cash back on all purchases and also enjoy access to a free instant money transfer app.
While Wealthsimple does not charge FX fees, you will pay the standard Visa currency conversion fee when you use the card to make payments abroad.
The Cash Card has a high maximum daily spending limit of $10,000 CAD.
4. No-Fee Credit Cards
If you have a decent credit score, you may be better off applying for a no-fee credit card and:
- Benefit from the flexibility of spending credit
- Earn cash back on all spending
- Improve your credit score when you pay off your balances on time
The following credit cards have no annual fee and are easy to get approved for:
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Rewards: Earn up to 2% unlimited cash back in up to 3 spending categories and 0.50% on all other purchases.
Welcome offer: Get an extra 10% cash back on up to $1,000 in spending in the first 2 months ($100 value); 1.95% balance transfer rate for 6 months.
Interest rates: 19.95% for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
SimplyCash Card from American Express
Rewards and benefits: Earn up to 2% cash back on gas and groceries; 1.25% cash back on all other purchases; travel accident insurance.
Welcome offer: Earn a $10 statement credit each month you spend $300 in purchases on your Card in the first 10 months (up to $100 value).
Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases and 21.99% on cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
Vanilla Prepaid Card FAQ
You can buy Vanilla prepaid cards at thousands of locations in Canada, including Walmart, 7-11, Giant Tiger, and Best Buy.
Log in to your online account or call the customer support number on your card.
For the Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard, the phone number for customer service is 1-800-652-9174. For Visa cards, the phone number is 1-844-864-6951.
Vanilla Prepaid Cards are non-refundable. If you lose the card, you can request a replacement card.
How do I reload my Vanilla Prepaid Card? You cannot reload or add new funds to a Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard or Visa card.