Hang out in Canadian Miles & Points circles for long enough, and you might hear through the grapevine that the mysterious Paypower Prepaid MasterCard is the secret avenue to generating huge volumes of points in a very short time.
However, you might also hear news reports about how Paypower can rob unwitting users of hundreds of dollars’ worth of their money.
And yet, you might also hear one of your favourite Miles & Points bloggers – I can’t remember exactly which one – mentioning offhand that Paypower is what allowed them to rack up enough Marriott Bonvoy points to fund spectacular trips to places like the St. Regis Bali, Mystique Santorini, and Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai.
But still you might’ve heard many anecdotes about Paypower’s poor customer service, as well as horror stories of people being separated from their Paypower funds for months on end when Paypower decided to block their account out of the blue.
So what’s the verdict on this card? Well, I thought I’d do some in-depth research myself on this beautiful early April day, and I’ve concluded that the best way to proceed with Paypower is… definitely don’t use it.
Paypower Comes With Fees
The Paypower Prepaid MasterCard is a reloadable prepaid debit card that can be purchased and reloaded at many grocery outlets across Canada.
Proponents of Paypower might champion the ability to load the card at a grocery store using a credit card that earns 5x the point on grocery purchases, and there’s no doubt that large volumes of purchases at the 5x level will boost your points balance very quickly.
What’s being overlooked here, however, is the fees.
Buying, loading, and withdrawing money from Paypower cards comes with fees at every step, and no one likes paying fees, do they?
Buying a new Paypower Prepaid MasterCard off the shelf will cost you $9.95 plus taxes. And once the card is activated, you’ll get charged a $4.95 monthly fee once a month going forward.
Then, every time you reload the card, you’ll pay a reload fee of $6.95 for the privilege of doing so. Let’s pick a totally arbitrary amount that one might choose to load – say, $500 – in this case, you’d actually be charged $506.95 at the till.
To rub further salt into your financial wounds, there’s an additional $1.95 withdrawal fee for every time you happen to withdraw money from the ATM. If you wanted to withdraw – oh I don’t know, let’s say $400 – from your account, then your balance would decrease by $400 and would then be dinged a further $1.95.
So let’s do some math here. You may have charged the $506.95 purchase to a credit card that earns 5x points at a grocery store, thus netting 2,535 points. In doing so, however, you’ve spent at least $9.95 + $4.95 + 6.95 + $1.95 = $23.80 on the activation, loading, and withdrawing process.
Are 2,535 points worth the $23.80 expense? Well, in the end that’s something that each person can only decide for themselves, but I know that the notoriously risk-averse and tight-fisted readership here at Prince of Travel will most likely decide against it.
Definitely don’t use the Paypower Prepaid MasterCard, because those fees are nothing less than daylight robbery, I tell you.
People at the Grocery Store Will Look at You Funny
Like all gift card purchases, most grocery stores will only deal with Paypower activations and reloads at the Customer Service desk, rather than any of the open cashiers. And since most of the cashiers rarely deal with Paypower cards, they’re bound to look at you funny when you stroll up with a stack of cards and ask to load $500 on each of them.
Invariably, you’ll hear all sorts of responses from the 20-year-old behind the counter working the night shift:
“Do we even carry these?”
“You can’t load these with a credit card, it’s policy.”
“I need to check with my supervisor to load these, and she’s not here right now. Come back tomorrow.”
Even if you chatted up the store supervisor and made it a habit to only visit the store when the supervisor was around, the actual process of loading cards can take a good few minutes.
(And if you’ve somehow convinced enough of your friends and family members to let you use cards in their names as well, then you can expect to wait at least 2–3 minutes for the one-metre-long receipt showing all the gift card activations to print.)
Do you really want to be that person holding up the entire Customer Service queue, attracting sighs of frustration from the guy who’s just looking to pick up some cigarettes, the lady who just wants her daily lotto ticket, and the grandma who’s ready to raise hell about a $0.50 price match on the Campbell’s soup – all while you rack up a $5,000 bill on your reloads in broad daylight?
Definitely don’t use the Paypower Prepaid MasterCard – you don’t want to be a weirdo at your local Sobeys.
ATM Withdrawals Can Be Risky
There’s something about standing at the ATM and withdrawing stacks of cash that feels… kind of sketchy, isn’t there?
Your local bank or credit union’s staff might easily get suspicious if they see someone cycling through several different cards at their ATM for several minutes on end, and if you weren’t careful and happened to patronize an ATM that’s right across the street from the Toronto Police Station, then you might suddenly find yourself engaging an audience of suspicious police officers as to what on earth you’re up to.
That’s not to mention how nerve-wracking it can be to be walking or driving around town with thousands of dollars in cash on your person as you head to the bank.
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t prepared to get your tailor’s help in equipping your coat with a few extra cash pockets on the inseam.
And on top of all that, as much fun as it can be to stroll into your local bank branch every day and pull out wads of cash from your coat pocket like Pablo Escobar himself, you’re bound to attract some questions as to where these stacks upon stacks of fresh $20 bills are coming from.
Definitely don’t use the Paypower Prepaid MasterCard, because the ATM withdrawals can be a pain to deal with. And to be honest? They aren’t even the most practical way to withdraw your balance in the first place.
Your Money May Be Held for Months
Some of you daredevils out there might, for whatever reason, decide to ignore my advice and go ahead and use the Paypower Prepaid MasterCard anyway.
If that’s you, you should know that Paypower tends to take a rather dim view of cardholders who don’t do anything besides loading and withdrawing money.
(It seems totally crazy, but they appear to have a slight preference for clients who use their Paypower cards for organic daily purchases as well.)
Therefore, it might be advisable to throw some organic spending activity in there. You may as well use your Paypower card to grab a coffee after performing your daily cash drop at the bank, or to buy your weekly groceries since you’ll be at the store anyway. Oh, and don’t forget to swipe your Paypower at the tailor’s when you pick up your new-and-improved cash coat as well.
There’s always a chance, however, that Paypower will elect to block your account at any time – it’s right there in the cardholder terms and conditions that they “may terminate this Agreement at any time, with or without cause.”
And if that happens, you should be prepared that it may take several weeks or months for any outstanding funds to be returned to you in the form of a cheque, so don’t play around with money that you can’t afford to part ways with for an extended period.
Of course, ultimately there’s a much easier way to avoid all of these issues in the first place…
…just definitely don’t use the Paypower Prepaid MasterCard.