It's the start of 2011, and this will be a review of my top picks for the best prepaid cards for various purposes.
As I have written before, I do NOT recommend prepaid cards as gifts. They are often fee-prone, and not much better than cash. Use a money order or bank draft if you're mailing funds. Prepaid cards are best for those that need the functionality of a Visa or Mastercard, but cannot use one for whatever reason. Even then, a Secured Visa or Secured Mastercard can be a better choice for those that require this functionality but have poor/no credit.
For others a Visa Debit card may be an excellent option (accepted, in theory, wherever Visa or Interac are accepted, but it debits your chequing account), but for now, CIBC is the only issuer, and there have been tons of complaints as not all of the kinks have been worked out.
Canada's Best Reloadable Prepaid Card......is the BMO Prepaid Travel Mosaik Card. It costs $9.95 initially, but is valid for ~3 years, and is issued by a real bank rather than a fly-by-night operation. They should have good customer support as well. The card can only be reloaded by bill payment from a chequing account, but this can be from any bank. The only monthly fee while the card is valid is $2.50 per month if you don't use it for 12 months. Many other cards start charging you per month just after 6 months, even if you use it often.
Users have reported that the card is well accepted by retailers, fewer complaints than most other cards, but vendors are always allowed to reject prepaid cards if they choose to do so. It's not the cheapest card up-front, but its pricing structure is good for the long-term, and it doesn't get many complaints (and that's worth saying twice). This is NOT the card to get if you want something anonymous.
The Best Private/Anonymous non-Reloadable Prepaid CardsThis is a split, it really depends on what you need the card for:
RBC Prepaid Visa Gift Card
These are somewhat anonymous. Available from most (all?) RBC branches. They require that you show ID to purchase, but after that, the card isn't really connected to you unless someone at RBC wants to dig through the records and connect it to the card purchaser. Value is limited to $500, and they cost just $3.95. There is a $1.50/month fee after 6 months. No usage or balance check fees. Expired balances are LOST.
3v Cash Prepaid VISA Vouchers.
This is the best totally-anonymous choice in my opinion. There is NO identification requirement for purchase as far as I know.
These cards are available almost everywhere, including Esso and Canadian Tire gas stations. They're "virtual" prepaid cards: In other words, there is no card at all, it's just an MC number on a receipt, so it's good for online only. You can even register the number online so you can connect it to an address for online purchases that do require an address. The downside is that the card is only valid until the end of the 3rd month after purchasing (90-120ish days from purchase).
Even if your need isn't immediate, or to create a <=$5000 card, you can transfer balances to another card for $1.95. They have "an account fee of $2 per month will be chargeable after the 3V Visa number has expired", so I presume you don't lost expiring balances on the spot.
Purchase price is as follows (denominations are fixed):
$20 - No Fee
$30 - $2.95 Fee
$50 - $2.95 Fee
$100 - $4.95 Fee
$150 - $4.95 Fee
$250 - $4.95 Fee
$500 - $4.95 Fee
Canada Post Prepaid Visa Card
Logically, available at any Canada Post, but a good idea to call ahead to be sure. Fee is variable between $2.95 and $6.95. They supposedly don't require any ID to purchase, but each Post Office/Outlet may have its own policies. No monthly fees until the 13th month, and even then, it's $2.00/month. No charge for balance inquiries either. Max value is $250.
Their website says "Subject to applicable law. Foreign currency margin: 2.5%. Cards expire but funds do not." as of 12 Feb 2011, but the card agreement they link to says that you lose expiring balances, so I'm not sure what to say here.
Registering an Address That Isn't Your OwnNow, I'm not sure why you'd do this, the two reasons to register your card are to be able to do a chargeback in case of a fraudulent transaction, or to have items shipped to your address.
As far as I know, on the non-reloadable cards, there is no verification actually done on the addresses you provide online when registering your card on the issuer's website.
For the Reloadable cards, like the BMO Travel Mosaik, they verify your identity, even going as far as checking your credit file (but only to verify your identity, they care less about how good/bad your report is), so don't bother applying with fake information.
Registering a US Address on your Prepaid CardsSome of these cards can be registered with US addresses, and accepted for purchases that require a US address, even though it should be clear to the merchant that it's a Canadian-issued card. Some Canadian retailers were recently selling US-issued US$ Prepaid cards, leave a comment
This is a really hit or miss, and companies like Apple are constantly trying to stop you from being able to do this. And of course, they can always detect that you're accessing from a Canadian internet provider unless you have a VPN for that too. The best thing to do is get an Ameri-Friend that'll give you a credit card in their name and create an internet VPN , but that isn't always so easy :(