How to Use Prepaid and Gift Cards to Deposit at Online Casinos

This page explains how to use prepaid gift cards to make deposits at U.S. online casinos. It includes a look at the pros and cons of this banking method and how to make withdrawals if this was your means of making that first deposit.

What Is a Prepaid Credit Card and How Does It Work?

The first thing you should understand about prepaid credit cards is that they’re not really credit cards at all. That’s a misnomer. They’re actually debit cards, by definition. A credit card provides you with spending power as a loan. You get to pay for your goods at the time of the purchase on credit, and you can pay them off over time. But with a debit card, the money is on the card beforehand. This is, by default, always a prepaid situation. Many checking and savings accounts offer debit cards, which have replaced traditional ATM cards. But you can also by prepaid debit cards with cash. Those are the cards I’m concerned with on this page.

These cards have other names, too. Some companies and customers call them pay-as-you-go cards. Others call them general-purpose reloadable debit cards. No matter what you prefer to call them, they all work in more or less the same way. Usually these cards operate on a payment network like Visa or Mastercard. (Those are the two most common.)

If you have no bank account and no credit, a prepaid debit card—where you pay cash up front for the card—can simplify your life in many ways. For example, you can’t pay cash for an airline ticket over the phone, or book a hotel room with cash, or rent a card with cash. You also can’t deposit cash into an online casino—you need some method of getting the money there. That’s what these cards are best for.

How to Deposit Money into an Online Casino with One of these Cards

Almost all online casinos accept Visa and Mastercard, but players in the United States often run into trouble getting their deposits to go through the payment network. If the charge is flagged as offshore gambling, the card processors decline the transaction as a matter of policy. It’s also an attempt to avoid running afoul of a law called UIGEA (The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). That 2006 law made it illegal to facilitate the transfer of funds for the purposes of illegal gambling.

One way online casinos get around these payment processors is to deliberately mis-code their transactions to make it look like you were buying something besides casino chips. This is tricky and doesn’t always work. Some casinos have close relationships with payment processors who are willing to take large risks, but this is becoming increasingly rare. And sometimes using a prepaid debit card gets you around the restriction altogether. After all, these cards are as close to anonymous as anything you’ll find on the Internet during this age.

In terms of actually making a deposit with this kind of card—it’s as simple as following the instructions on the cashier page of the casino site. Just input the card number just as you would if you were using a traditional credit card.

How to Withdraw Your Money if this is Your Deposit Method

Some people treat these prepaid gift cards as disposable. Once they’ve spent the money, they throw the card away. This is a big mistake. Many Internet casinos process withdrawals via your deposit method. So if you’re withdrawing funds that were deposited from a prepaid card, those funds would default back to that card as a refund. If you threw the card away, you’re out of luck. If this is the case, you can contact customer service and explain the situation to them. Many times they’ll try to help you out. (Casinos make their money from repeat customers.)

The Pros and Cons of Using Prepaid Debit Cards as a Banking Method at Online Casinos in the United States

As with every deposit method I’ve considered on this site, prepaid debit cards have their advantages and their disadvantages. For one thing, you don’t need to have a credit card. Let’s face it. A lot of people don’t have credit good enough to be able to get such a card. For another, prepaid debit cards often clear as a transaction when traditional credit cards decline. The issuers and processors for these cards are less strict in their obedience to the rules. Finally, when you make a deposit using this method, you don’t have to pay an outrageous annual interest rate on what you charged the card for several years. You bought the card with cash, and so it’s not borrowed money. You don’t pay interest.

On the other hand, these cards aren’t free. Not only do you have to deposit the money that sets up your credit limit, but you also have to pay a fee to get the card. These cards aren’t a foolproof method with U.S. online casinos, either. They sometimes decline, too. But these gift cards (which is another name for the cards we’re talking about) are generally a great alternative for the United States casino gambler.

Updated: 11.26.2016
Author: Steve Mitchell