As an American Express Card member getting ready for holiday shopping, I have accepted a plum assignment, the evaluation of the new American Express Prepaid card. I don’t know how many of you have heard about this new program from American Express, but these are cards that you order for yourself or others placing a specific amount of funds on it for your use, or your family’s use. Unlike your regular American Express Card which may have a high spending limit on it (depending on your card level and credit record), with the prepaid card, funds are not unlimited. You load your card with a limited amount of cash. The card is designed to help you stay within a specific budget. When you exceed your budget, you can no longer spend until you reload the card. Because it is not a credit card, there are no fees, so you are not charging and amassing finance charges.
In order to review and evaluate the card, American Express has offered me $2,000 to load up a card and then go shopping with a stylist to try to find some great deals, but not necessarily on budget items. With $2,000 USD I’m ready to shop for some investment pieces. Maybe real diamond earrings, or a good pearl necklace? Perhaps a Valentino or a Chanel fashion item? Something classic that I can invest in and wear forever. In order to get started, I was sent a check and then a card in the mail to load with funds. I had to order the card from the American Express website and it took about a week to arrive.
Even though I am getting money to review the card and shop, this will be a truthful evaluation. I want to really share the pros and cons of using the card. To begin with, it does takes a little while to load up the card. There are a number of steps to go through. You need to create an account at americanexpress.com/prepaid, then go through several steps to load up the card with funds, including entering your checking account details, getting your checking account verified with American Express and then getting the funds transferred to the card. It can take 2 to 3 days to get the funds properly loaded to the card. In my case, I did have to get help from American Express Customer Service to make sure that my checking account details were properly configured. I spent some time on the phone with Wendy at American Express who patiently helped me with the process. Later this week, my card will be ready for shopping and I will be test driving the use of the card.
You may wonder after reading this process and the steps required, why consumers should bother to order a card, wait for it to arrive and then wait for it to be useable. Well, it’s because there are some real benefits that come with the prepaid card. Here are a few things I have already learned. Prepaid car users get some of the same great benefits that American Express card holders enjoy, without having to pay the yearly fee. So that means, that with the prepaid card, consumers can enjoy:
- Purchase Protection: Covered items which are lost or stolen during the first 90 days will be reimbursed.
- Fraud Protection: Refund of charges if your prepaid card is lost or stolen.
- Global Assist: A help line to assist you when you are traveling more than 100 miles from home. So say you loose your passport, then can tell you what you need to do or where to go to get help.
- Help Arranging Roadside Assistance: American Express will help you get roadside assistance, without charge. Prepaid cardholders can use this service up to 5x per year.
As you can see, these benefits are enticing and protect the cardholder. Stay tuned over the next fee week as I review and trial the American Express prepaid card. I’ll be trying it at ATMs to see what the charges are, and if it is easy to use. I’ll also be testing it at some of my favorite shopping haunts with an eye towards getting the best value. With $2,000 , I should be fully loaded and ready to go!