A pay as you go credit card, or pay as you go debit card, is just another name for a prepaid card. These are also often known as top up credit cards.

Although these are often referred to as credit cards, they're actually prepaid cards that you can use to spend money that you've loaded. These cards do not offer credit so you cannot build up debts or owe money to the card provider.

When you run out of money, you can simply top up your card by loading more money on to it using a debit card or through a bank transfer.

You can use a PAYG (pay as you go) card to buy things online or in shops using either chip and pin or contactless just like any other bank card.

Here is a closer look at how these prepaid accounts work

How to get the best prepaid card

The best payg credit card is the one that costs the least to use and offers the benefits you want. Look out for:

  • Administration fees: This is the cost of having your card, and can either be a one off charge or a monthly fee. Not all pay as you go cards charge an admin fee.

  • Loading fees: This is the cost of adding money to your card, and usually depends on how you load your funds to your account. For example, if may cost more to add money using a debit card than using a bank transfer.

  • Transaction fees: This is how much you pay per transaction. Most pay as you go cards offer free UK transactions but not all do so check before you apply.

  • Cash withdrawal fees: This is the cost of withdrawing cash from your card from an ATM.

You can then work out how much each card will cost based on how you plan to use it.

What are the benefits of a pay as you go bank card?

The advantages of using prepaid card include:

  • Easy access. Unlike credit cards, top up cards don't require a credit check or an eligibility assessment. Anyone who can verify their identity can get a pay as you go debit card.

  • Safer spending. With a top up card, you don't have you worry about over spending and getting into debt. It only allows you to spend the money you load on to it, so you it's a useful tool keep yourself in check. It's also safer than using cash, as a lost or stolen card can be cancelled and replaced. But if you lose cash, it's gone for good.

  • Online security. Online shopping has become the norm for so many people these days. But the internet is also rife with people trying to scam you by stealing your credit or debit card details. Top up cards aren't linked to your bank account, so they're useful for shopping online.

Can you get a top up credit card if you have bad credit?

Yes. A pay as you go credit card doesn't require a credit check, so these are useful for people with bad credit who have trouble getting a credit card, or even a current account.

Pay as you go credit card FAQs


Do pay as you go credit cards charge interest?


No, because you are not borrowing the money, instead you have to add the money to the card before you spend it.


Can I go overdrawn on a top up credit card?


No, they do not let you borrow money in any way. You can only spend what you have already added to the card.


Can I get a top up credit card to use abroad?


Yes, but some charge you for using them overseas. Here is how prepaid travel cards work.


What is the difference between VISA and MasterCard?


VISA and MasterCard process the payments you make with your prepaid card. They are very similar, but this guide explains how they both work.


Is my prepaid card protected by Section 75?


No, but the Chargeback scheme could help you get your money back if something goes wrong with a transaction.

About our prepaid cards comparison


Who do we include in this comparison?


Our comparison tables include providers we have commercial arrangements with. The number of listings in our tables can vary depending on the terms of those arrangements, as well as other market developments. They are all from providers either directly regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or providers that are partnered with a company regulated by the FCA. Here is more information about how our website works.


How do we make money from our comparison?


We have commercial agreements with some of the companies in this comparison and get paid commission if we help you take out one of their products or services. Find out more here.
You do not pay any extra and the deal you get is not affected.

Last updated: 12 January, 2020