Why exactly does your credit card need to be attached to your bank? And what if your account is in Euro or GBP and you are frequently making purchases in USD? I’d personally prefer to separate cards and banks, with no constraints of where the bank or the credit card issuer are located. Currently, I have accounts and payment cards in the countries I’m from or in which I live, like most of us. I use a local prepaid card as well, that I load with good ol’ cash. This product, here where I live, was originally meant for people without a bank account, or even, God forbid, for students. So I’m not the target any more, but I find the principle, well, right.
This prepaid card, however, allows only payments within the borders of this country. What I’m interested in right now are international prepaid cards issued outside my home countries, ideally being virtual cards. It doesn’t really matter to me whether the card is anonymous or not, Virgin-Islands-based or not, but it is so that banking outside your borders often leads to those shores. So if it’s not to hide, why do I need it? Well, it just happens to match my view of what a life without borders should be like.
Based on this article from Streber, I started with this Polish site PODEX offering prepaid anonymous visa cards. These are from BANK ZACHODNI WBK S.A. or mBANK S.A., which of course we’ve all heard about, even the few of us out there who aren’t Poles. PODEX’s story is intesting, as these guys specialise in exchanging linden dollars in the world of Second Life. I don’t play, as sad as that sounds, so I had no idea linden dollars even existed. Now I do, however, and even have the knowledge that $1 USD equals about L$250. So is this card interesting? So it seems, as you purchase it for $40 – $50 USD, with no name on it, and receive it by mail at home for no extra charge. After that, it’s free to use, free to load and free to pay with for 3 years. It works for small amounts, however, with a very low limit of $3500 per year. I asked Podex why. That’s set by Polish law, was Jacek’s answer. You can load the cards in several ways, in particular through a simple bank transfer, as each card has an IBAN number associated to it. To be tested, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll let you know how the test goes.
Searching for alternatives took me to Sovereign Gold Card, offering cards issued in Belize, St Vincent and Cyprus. While those places might immediately have you dreaming of beaches and Caïpirinhas, for others these names are really just associated to semi-anonymous money. With this Sovereign Gold card, you get a Visa/Mastercard with no name on it that you can load with $25K USD per month. This option is however the rich man’s option. Card costs $145 plus $100 just to ship it to you (in a golden envelope I suppose) and every single use you make with it comes with a not-so-low fee attached.
Back to the offshore experts with this article: most no-name prepaid cards appear to be issued by FBME in Cyprus or Tanzania or Choice Bank in Belize. Beaches, beaches… After contacting Choice Bank for information, you need to be a customer of their offshore services first. Not my plan right now. It’s not clear whether FBME provides it’s cards as standalone products or not, and I’ll let you know once I get their answer. If they do, their Global Card would be the entry-level solution. This card costs $50 per year and allows free payments up to $5000 per month. Reloading the card however is $20 plus %1 of the amount, so $30 for loading $1000 to the card. Still an interesting option however, which I plan on testing too if I don’t need to open an account with them.
What’s next? Searching for a US-based prepaid card is next, with the objectif of non-US residents to buy from US stores that don’t accept those suspicious non-American payment cards. Searching for virtual prepaid cards is also next, products for which you won’t be charged a $100 shipping fee. You can subscribe here to be sure to get the next post.