The Vanilla Prepaid Card: Not A Good Choice For Canadians

July 13, 2021
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The Vanilla Prepaid Card used to be a decent option for short-term spending, but it has lost much of its allure. Today, the value it provides is so low we can't recommend it at all.

Instead, we recommend taking advantage of offers like the American Express Cobalt Card or the Scotiabank credit cards, both of which offer far better value than the Vanilla Prepaid Card. With everything from 4% cash back to a 5X earn rate on eligible eats & drinks, you're much better off getting one of these cards.

What Is The Vanilla Prepaid Card?

The Vanilla Prepaid Card is a stored-value prepaid card available in its Mastercard and Visa versions. With this card, you can purchase via mail order, point of sale retail, and online stores. 

It's not a credit card, debit card, or charge card, which means that its use will not affect your credit rating. You can use the Vanilla Prepaid Card at various locations worldwide, in-store and online.

One drawback is that this prepaid card cannot be used at ATMs, and it also won't grant you cashback from purchases. 

Vanilla Prepaid Card Types

As we mentioned before, there are two different types of Vanilla Prepaid Cards, the Visa and the Mastercard versions. In the following table, you'll see how many iterations of the card exist and how much they cost:

Vanilla Prepaid MastercardVanilla Prepaid Visa

The funds you have on your card will never expire, but the card can expire. You can always call customer service to request a replacement card which will be mailed to you and then you can transfer the available balance to your new card by logging into your account.

How Do I Use My Vanilla Prepaid Card?

You can purchase this card in gas stations and in any of the participating stores. Once you have it, you can immediately activate the card once you make your first purchase. As with other prepaid cards, you are required to sign the back of the card when you buy it. 

You can also combine your card with a second payment method in case the cost of your purchase exceeds the balance on your card. 

Vanilla Prepaid cards can be used outside Canada as long as Mastercard and/or Visa are accepted, which is a big plus when compared to a debit card. Just be aware that there is a 2.5% foreign exchange fee which is standard for most credit cards.

What’s The Difference Between The Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard & Visa Options?

The difference between these cards is in their transaction limits, as well as the minimum amount they cost. The Mastercard option is available at a minimum of $25, while the Visa Card is available at $50.

Different Limits

These are the differences between the maximum transaction limits in both card types:

Card nameCard typeLimits
Vanilla Prepaid VisaStore-bought, non-reloadable cardMaximum card balance $500.00
Maximum daily expense: $500.00
Vanilla Prepaid MastercardStore-bought, non-reloadable cardMaximum card balance: $200.00
Maximum daily expense: $200.00

Different Fee Structure

This card has a different activation fee depending on the type you choose as well. These fees are as follows:

Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard Gift card amountActivation fee
$25 Card$3.95
$50 Card$4.95
$100 Card$5.95
$200 Card$6.95
$60 Multipack Card$8.95
Vanilla Prepaid Visa Gift card amount Activation fee
$25 Card$3.95
$35 Card$4.95
$50 Card$5.95
$75 Card$6.95
$100 Card$5.95
$150 Card$6.50
$200 Card$6.95
$250 Card$7.50
$20 – $500 Card$7.95

How To Check The Card's Balance

The fastest way to check your balance is by logging into your Vanilla Prepaid account on the Vanilla Prepaid website. You can also call customer service (Mastercard: 1-800-652-9174, Visa: 1-844-864-6951) to find out your balance.

Drawbacks To The Vanilla Prepaid Card

Both the Mastercard and the Visa versions of this gift card can be used to make shopping online easier. However, there are a few disadvantages to these cards:

  • You cannot reload the card.
  • You cannot make pay-at-the-pump transactions.
  • You cannot use them to pay recurring bills.
  • You cannot use them to withdraw cards from the ATM.
  • They do not offer cashback.
  • If your card is lost or stolen, you can only get a replacement if you have your card number written down or memorized.
  • The card has low maximum balances.

Alternatives To The Vanilla Prepaid Card

The offers on this card are pretty basic, but there are plenty of alternatives if you're looking for prepaid cards with a wider range of benefits. Here are some you can look into:

#1 The CIBC Prepaid Visa

You can shop worldwide online and offline, use VISA Paywave even for small purchases, and basically spend on your own terms. There are two CIBC Prepaid Visa cards that you can sign up for which are:

  • CIBC Smart Prepaid Visa Card
  • CIBC Smart Prepaid Travel Visa Card

The CIBC prepaid cards enable you to top up your card with your money. It works like a debit card, with credit card convenience. This makes it easy for you to shop anywhere inside and outside Canada. 

With this card, you get:

  • Minimum load amount: $20
  • Maximum balance amount: $10,000 
  • Daily withdrawal limit: $1,000
  • No interest: The card does not incur any interest over time
  • Worldwide use: You can use it all over the world as long as VISA is accepted
  • Credit score: You don’t have to worry about your prepaid affecting any credit rating or store since you only use the money that’s on the card. 
  • No age limit: You can sign up for either the Smart Prepaid or Smart Travel Prepaid at any age, even for those under 18 years old. 
  • No residency needed: The residency requirement is not needed which means you don’t have to be a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident to be eligible for the CIBC card. This is extremely useful for travelers visiting Canada
  • No CIBC bank account needed: You can get the CIBC prepaid even without a CIBC bank account

The fees for these cards differ but generally, there's a customization fee that starts at $5.00 and ATM withdrawals outside Canada costs you $2.50. 

#2 The KOHO Prepaid Visa Card

The KOHO Prepaid Visa Card is a prepaid reloadable card. It has an app powered by Visa that, gives you real-time insight into your spending, helps you set saving goals, and gives you financial tips and claims to reduce your spending.

This card does not have any annual fees, but if you choose to subscribe to a premium KOHO account, there are fees of $9/month. Subscribing to a premium account also reduces the international transaction fee to 1.5% for every transaction made outside Canada.

#3 The Canada Post Prepaid Visa

The Canada Post Visa Prepaid Card is a prepaid card which you can use globally in any country that accepts VISA cards as electronic payments for online and offline transactions. You can also use ATM facilities anywhere in the world. Like the CIBC prepaid cards, this card is ideal if you are traveling and don’t want to carry cash. 

With this card, you:

  • Don’t need a credit check
  • Don’t need a bank account
  • Can reload it at any time, as often as you’d like
  • It comes with purchase security insurance and an extended manufacturer’s warranty

The main downside to this card is its maintenance fee which is $3.00 and the reload fee which is $3.00

In Summary

The Vanilla Prepaid Card used to be a decent option for short-term spending, though it's lost much of its allure. Today, the value it provides is so low we can't recommend it at all.

Instead, we recommend capitalizing on current offers like the American Express Cobalt Card or the Scotiabank credit cards, which offer far better value than the Vanilla Prepaid Card. With everything from 4% cashback to points bonuses worth $2,000 and more, you're much better off getting any of these cards.

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