I tried the PayPower Mastercard for You: Here’s my Review

Paypower Mastercard in packaging, with shopping bags icon and a graphics of a guy shopping online

The landscape of prepaid cards is changing fast. In recent years, new players like KOHO and Neo have been offering free plans and banking services with their prepaid cards. Does it still make sense to use a more traditional prepaid card when you know there are fees involved? Does PayPower Mastercard stand out from competitors like Vanilla and Joker? I tested the PayPower card and application for you, and here is my take.

Hardbacon Score
  • Fees

  • Security

  • Customer Service

At a glance

PayPower offers both a non-reloadable prepaid card and a reloadable one. However, fees are high and the app still needs some improvement.

Buying my PayPower Mastercard

I bought a PayPower card in store for $9.95 (activation fee). I chose a $20 denomination, but you can get a card that goes up to $500. Basically, I paid $31.44 taxes included to spend $20. More than a third of the price was just to activate my card. The purchase is more profitable if you get a higher denomination.

When I got home, I downloaded the mobile application. To create my profile, I entered my phone number, received a code, verified my e-mail and created my password, then activated Face ID. Then I clicked on the icon to register the non-reloadable physical card I’d bought in the store. To keep track of my purchases, I entered the 16-digit number on my card. I was also asked for my name and address. Registration allows me to benefit from Mastercard’s Zero Liability protection.

My First Purchase with my PayPower Prepaid Card

PayPower app showing my card and an ad for the digital card
Hand holding PayPower card on the bill for the card
PayPower app showing my Balance at the top and transactions at the bottom

I had some shopping to do at the pharmacy and decided to use my PayPower card there. Since it doesn’t have a chip, I had to swipe the card. The cashier also asked me for a signature.

I also tested the possibility of blocking the card. This is a very practical function. For example, if you lose your physical card, go to the app and block it. No thief will be able to use it. So I blocked my card and tried to make another purchase in a bookshop. My transaction was refused, which shows that the feature is doing a good job.

I haven’t made any foreign currency purchases with my PayPower, but I see in the cardholder agreement that the fee would be 3%, which is quite high.

My PayPower Card Balance

PayPower recently overhauled its card offering and application. One thing that was bothering users was the difficulty of finding out their balance. Problem solved! When I log on to the application, I immediately see my balance at the bottom of the screen. If I click on my card, I see current and past transactions, as well as my balance at the top of the screen, as shown in the image above.

Switching to a Reloadable Card

The problems started when I tried to get a reloadable card via the app. The packaging of the physical card strongly encouraged me to switch to a reloadable card. In fact, it’s pretty easy to believe you’re buying a reloadable card if you don’t pay attention to the fine print.

I was thinking that there might be fewer fees with this type of card. So I clicked on the virtual card and had to go through an identity verification process by submitting photos of my face and of my driver’s license. There was a fee of $2.50 for the digital card, then $3.95 to (re)load it by debit or $4.95 by credit. Contrary to what it says on the PayPower website, I couldn’t do an Interac transfer. So it’s a bit cheaper than the physical card, but you have to load at least $8 per debit card for an equivalent ratio (pay $3.95 to have $8 on the card or pay $9.95 to have $20 on the card).

Paypower reloadable card breakdown of fees
Error message from Paypower app when trying to load the digital card

I was unable to obtain my virtual reload card. It seems that their verification process is very sensitive. Maybe I made a mistake in my date of birth by going too fast, or maybe it’s because there are two addresses on my driver’s license due to a move. I contacted customer service to see if they could tell me where the error was and correct it, but they couldn’t help me. It’s as if I don’t have my profile on file. Certain information, such as date of birth, doesn’t appear in my profile in the application (even though customer service said it did), so I can’t check or change it. Not very practical!

Comparison of PayPower, Joker and Vanilla

Here’s a table showing PayPower’s strengths in each category, compared with two of its competitors.

PayPowerVanilla and Joker
FeesHighVanilla is much cheaper
Cash BackNoneJoker offers cash back
ReloadableYes, but it depends on the specific card chosenNon-reloadable

PayPower Prepaid Mastercard alternatives

When it comes to prepaid cards, you can find a lot better than the PayPower, Joker or Vanilla! Companies such as KOHO, EQ Bank and Neo offer interesting, free alternatives. Their cards are reloadable from a linked account. I prefer them to PayPower, which charges a host of fees.

KOHO Prepaid Mastercard

[Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”637cf8206bbb7962c19ae225″]

Currently, the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard is one of the best prepaid cards in Canada. It provides the advantages of a rewards credit card but without the risk of debt or interest charges. KOHO provides a variety of plans depending on the rewards you want: Easy (free), Essential ($4/mo), Extra ($9/mo), and Everything ($19/mo).

The card is free and most of your daily transactions are free. Depending on the plan you choose, you can earn up to 6% cash back on eligible card purchases plus bonus cash back at KOHO partners, as well as up to 5% interest on your entire balance. You can also use KOHO to help build credit by subscribing to the Credit Building plan. Extra and Everything subscribers enjoy no foreign transaction fees as well as one free international ATM withdrawal per month.

Neo Money

[Offer productType=”SavingsAccount” api_id=”60fee79313fd2f260ff90749″]

Not only is the Neo Money Card a great prepaid card option, it’s also one of the best cash back cards on the market. So if you want to bank as much cash back as possible, the Neo Money Card could be an ideal choice. This card is free with no annual or monthly fees and offers a hassle-free user experience with both a mobile app and a web browser platform.

For each first purchase you make at a Neo partner merchant, you earn up to 15% cash back! Most of your daily purchases will provide an average of 5% cash back, and a guaranteed minimum of no less than 0.5% cash back. Plus, every dollar in your Neo Money Account earns 1% annual interest and offers unlimited free daily transactions.

EQ Bank Card

[Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”63d2cb6a18196b6d2e1928c2″]

The EQ Bank Card could become your new go-to financial tool. It’s free with no annual or monthly fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no charges for ATM withdrawals anywhere in Canada. In fact, should you incur any fees while withdrawing money with your card from a Canadian ATM, EQ Bank will refund you the fee within 10 business days.

Additionally, the EQ Bank card allows you to earn interest and cash back. Your balance earns up to 4% interest until it’s spent, and you also receive a 0.5% cash back on all your card purchases. The card is widely accepted wherever Mastercard is used. To get one, open a Personal Account with EQ Bank, request an EQ Bank card, and load your card with funds.

Maude Gauthier is a journalist for Hardbacon. Since completing her Ph.D. in communications at University of Montreal, she has been writing about finance, insurance and credit cards for companies like Fonds FMOQ and Code F. As a responsible user of credit cards, she can spend hours reading the fine print to fully understand their benefits. Because of their simplicity, she developed a preference for cash back cards. After suffering steep increases with her former insurer, she can now proudly say that she saved hundreds of dollars by shopping around for her auto and home insurance. In her free time, she reads novels and enjoys streaming popular shows (and possibly less popular shows, like animal documentaries).