Prepaid USD cards are one of the easiest ways to start buying goods and services online, especially now that the United States Dollar is legal tender. There are a lot of cards available these days with almost every bank having one either handled by Mastercard or VISA.
We have been inundated with questions about which card is best but there is no clear winner because each has its benefits and drawbacks. So we thought we would do an overview of the most popular ones have to offer in terms of the following criteria:
- Requirements and Ease of Access
- Initial deposit
The various cards that are being offered by the banks are going to be getting the Tinder treatment and I will be swiping right or left depending on the upsides and downsides of the service. I should mention that these are my choices and won’t be universal. You are free to air your views in the comments and the main use case in consideration here is if you are using the card locally or for paying for goods and services online.
BancABC VISA Prepaid Card
Perhaps one of the most popular ones out on the market because you will never see a TM Pick n Pay BancABC booth without a substantial queue. What makes BancABC’s card really popular is that you can get it right at home with the bank’s Dail a Visa Program. Essentially you can call up Banc ABC’s Branch X and they will take down your details over the phone and send a Vaya driver the next day to deliver your card.
All you’ll need is a copy of your ID and fill out a form when the driver arrives. Additionally, you’ll need to give the driver US$10 dollars towards opening the account, half of which will go into your account balance. This ease of access is probably the highest when it comes to all of the cards on offer. You don’t need to go to a bank branch in order to get apply (like the others) and after the card is activated you can start transacting. The only problem is if this service is available outside of Harare and Bulawayo. We have heard some say that Dail a Visa was not available in their city/town.
BancABC’s Prepaid VISA card is hit by what cripples all of these cards and that’s the need to deposit money into it whenever you need to make a payment with the card… But in terms of charges, it’s not that bad, to be honest for the convenience.
- No deposit fee
- 1% for all online or swipe transactions
- US$2.50 for withdrawals at any local ATM and 1.5% of the amount at international machine
- US$0.30 insufficient funds fee
- US$0.50 service fee per month
The first drawback to BancABC’s card is the 50 cent fee fund per month which other banks have wither not specified or do not charge. This means that you are going to be paying BancABC US$6.00 a year just to have the card. The other is the insufficient funds fee because if you haven’t funded your account you are going to be in the red when subscription services start looking for money at the end of the month.
However, in my opinion, the ease of access trumps the fees because you have to fill out very little in the way of paperwork and can get the card at home or at work (depending on the city). So for BancABC, it’s a swipe right for me.
FBC Prepaid Mastercard
FBC Bank’s Mastercard is probably the next most popular prepaid USD card out there. It has a lot of things going for it like there is no monthly service fee (or one hasn’t been listed in the Ts and Cs) and that the cost to open a card is like BancABC’s at US$5.00. The only difference is that you’ll have to deposit a total of US$20.00 from which the application fee is taken which is double what BancABC is asking for. But there is a downside to this because FBC charges 2.5% of the amount you deposit every time you fund the card.
This is a massive disadvantage, but I think is balanced out by the fact that FBC doesn’t have an insufficient funds fee… So if you forget to fund your card, you won’t have to worry about going into the red when Spotify, Netflix and others start pinging the account when it is empty.
- 1.88% fee for online payments and POS swipes
- 3% withdrawal fee at any local bank
Compared to BancABC’s prepaid VISA, FBC’s Mastercard is a little pricier but you won’t ever have to fear going into a negative balance with it which for me is an easy swipe right.
CABS Prepaid Mastercard
This one is a bit of a doozy because for you to get in you’ll need to fork out US$50.00 to get an account which is the most of any of the banks by a country mile. CABS’ prepaid Mastercard gets an immediate swipe left from me because fifty bucks is a lot just to get an account open and this decreases accessibility.
However, for those who have US$50 burning a hole in their pocket or are CABS customers already and want to stay in its ecosystem the charges are:
- No account service fee
- 1% of purchase amount for POS and online purchases
- Withdrawal fee at local ATMs US$2.5 plus 1.5% of withdrawn amount
Everything else is pretty good, cheaper than FBC and at the same level as BancABC when it comes to POS and Online payment fees. But for me, it’s hard to overlook that initial deposit fee.
Steward Bank Prepaid Visa
Steward’s Prepaid Visa is pretty much the same as BancABC and cheaper than FBC and CABS when it comes to the initial fee of US$10.00. This is great because if you have 20 bucks on you you can open an account really easily and pay for your Netflix Mobile as well as Spotify.
In Steward Bank’s Prepaid Visa business conditions it does not state whether it has a monthly charge but it does have a deposit fee of a dollar which is cheaper than FBC but more expensive than BancABC.
The biggest drawback of Steward’s Visa card is that you will get charged US$0.50 balance enquiry fee. The other banks don’t mention this fee in their business conditions, so you’ll need to be mindful of how much you’ve spent.
- 1.75% of transaction value, which is more expensive than BancABC and CABS but cheaper than FBC’s 1.88%
- 3% Withdrwal fee (at local ATMs which is on par with FBC but more expensive than CABS).
Steward Bank is one that I can’t really make a decision on. It has its good and bad…
EcoBank Visa Prepaid Card
This one has some diehards because every time we talk about prepaid USD cards there is always someone defending EcoBank’s Visa Card. And to be honest it is a little strange because to get one you’ll have to pay US$25.00 (US$5.00 will go to account opening the rest to balance) to get the card which is halfway to CABS and more expensive than the other banks mentioned.
So if you are on a budget then this one might be a bit of a problem. However, EcoBank redeems itself by not having a monthly service fee which makes it really enticing looking at BancABC’s 50 cents a month. But the good news is crushed by an astronomical 5% deposit fee which is the highest so far. This for me is a massive deterrent and I’ll have to swipe left here.
But for those who are Ecobank customers already and want to remain within its umbrella, the other charges are:
- 2.5% of the amount for swipe and online transactions
- Withdrawal fee – 3% of amount being withdrawn
ZB Prepaid Visa
The last entry from the chatter we have been seeing in our community groups and on social media is ZB Bank’s Prepaid Visa. This card has an entry point of US$20 as the account opening fee and initial deposit. The fee is high but at the same level as FBC, albeit double what BancABC and Steward are asking for.
As for the account/service fees, there are none listed in ZB Bank’s Business conditions. The case is the same for the deposit fee, but a good point to ZB’s Visa is that it doesn’t have an insufficient funds fee which is great.
Other charges are:
- 1% of the amount transacted online or POS
- US$5.00 flat fee for withdrawals at local ATMs
The withdrawal flat fee is a little high but the rest is pretty good if you are going to be using the card for online transactions and I will swipe right on this one.
Again I have to mention that this is just my opinion on the cards on offer and I’d be really interested to hear what you think in the comments below.
Also, you can click the link below to see all the charges side by side.