When paying for something, I use cash, check or debit card. Recently I obtained a pre-paid card as part of a rebate, and quickly learned exactly how they work, or not.

To get this rebate, I did as instructed by going to a website to fill out the required information. It was a bit confusing, but I finally figured it out. The wait time from submitted application to delivery was listed as 8 to 12 weeks. Why it takes that much time is beyond me.

Last week, it arrived. I thought it would be a check, but it was a pre-paid (brand name) card in the amount of 40 dollars. The accompanying paperwork listed all the information for using the card. It does not work at gas station pumps, can't use it at an ATM, and there are monthly fees if you don't use it up after a certain amount of time. That was just a few of the restrictions, and other possible fees attached to it.

The first time I attempted to use the card was at a grocery store (using the self checkout.) It clearly said to select 'credit' not 'debit.' I did, and the machine asked for a pin number. What? There is no pin number. So strike one. I paid cash.

Next, I used the card at a restaurant, and it worked! But I didn't notice on the check receipt at the bottom in small print, there was some sort of extra charge in the amount 5 dollars and change. What was that? My original  charge was just over 27 dollars, but this fee was added to the card, bringing the total to just over 33 dollars. Was it a pre-paid card charge, or a tip charge? I already paid the tip in cash.

The next day I tried to use the card for a 9 dollar purchase, thinking I had about 12 dollars left, but because of that extra restaurant charge,  my actual available funds came to just over 7 dollars, and the card was declined. Embarrassing.

Now, knowing exactly how much was left on the card (I had to go online to check my balance, which was a chore since the website it repeatedly indicated my card number didn't exist), I made a purchase leaving a little over a dollar left on the card, which I will never use. That means the issuing company will profit (although minimally) from me. I wonder how many others do the same. Can you imagine how much these companies profit from this?

The lesson I learned? If a purchase comes with a rebate via a pre-paid card, I will pass, thank you, but that's just me. Have you had similar issues, or am I just naive in these matters?