How to Use a Prepaid Debit Card to Send Money

Adam Rust

There are two ways that consumers can use their prepaid debit card account to send money.

A caveat: these methods only apply to general-purpose-reloadable prepaid debit cards. I am not writing about gift cards, cards that hold store credit, or funds received as an incentive for signing up for a new service. The techniques here work for FDIC-insured accounts, including prepaid debit cards as well as other bank accounts.

First, you can send money with an add-on service that interacts with your bank account.

Venmo, Pop Money, and Square's Cash App will let you send money from your bank account to a bank account of one of your friends. These are bank-to-bank transfers routed through a national ACH network. If you are willing to wait, they will send your money for free. These companies must pay a slight fee (less than 10 cents) to the ACH provider. As the networks charge a higher price for immediate settlement, each of those services asks the consumer to pay a modest fee for instant payments.

The payment function inside Facebook Messenger does not accept a prepaid debit card, nor will it allow funds to be sourced from a credit card. To pay with Messenger, a person must hve a debit card issued by a US bank.

Google, Apple, and most of the smartphone providers have a payment service, too.

Usually, it would be next to impossible for a consumer to set up an ACH payment. Historically, banks have done the behind-the-scenes work to orchestrate these transactions. Venmo and its competitor services use application programming interfaces (“APIs”) to facilitate the communication between itself and the banks on both ends of the transaction. Venmo uses Plaid. Square Cash employs its in-house API developers.

Second, some banks have bundled money transmission services inside the overall basket-of-goods in their traditional account.

Don't expect to be able to use Zelle. At this moment, Zelle does not work with prepaid debit cards.

Third, many will let you send money between accounts at the same bank. For example, you could get a Varo Money bank account (in only a few minutes) and if your intended recipient also had one, then you can send money back and forth between those accounts instantly. The funds will settle right away. OK - in some cases it make take a few minutes - but your recipient will have good funds very quickly. This technique works because the bank does not have to send the money through a third-party service like the automated clearing house or FedWire. Instead, the bank only has to debit and credit accounts inside its own holdings.

Bank Accounts that Use Venmo (among other options) for Sending Money
Picture of card

You can use one prepaid debit card to send money internationally.

Zelle will not let you send money internationally. Very few institutions offer accounts with this capacity

If you don’t have a better option, you can go to a Western Union, input the 16-digit number on the face of your debit card, and send money from your account to an international destination. That is hardly convenient, and additionally, sending funds at Western Union or MoneyGram can be very expensive.

Working with Venmo

Here are some debit cards that work with Venmo:

- The Fancard by Sunrise National Bank

- Cards from Card.Com

- The Varo Money Card is not a prepaid debit card, but it serves some of the same markets. It works with Venmo, Cash, and PayPal Instant Transfer.

- The Empower Bank account (not a prepaid debit card either) works with Venmo and Apple Pay.

Be aware that some of the most well-known prepaid debit cards do not work with Venmo:

- NetSpend

- Green Dot

- Rush Card

The Venmo card is not a prepaid debit card.

Back Arrow icon
Back to list of blog posts
The Wisewage blog is not intended to describe any particular product mentioned elsewhere on the site. Please refer to each product page for details about any specific product. You can read our full legal statement about the blog here.
Thank you! Your subscription request has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.