Guide to International Gift Cards

Giving a gift nowadays is easier than ever, thanks to the availability and variety of gift cards on the market. After all, where else can you score that “perfect” surprise ranging from $10 to $200 for everyone from a reclusive coworker or your child’s substitute math teacher to your spouse or close family member? 

The right gift card can do wonders for building or reinforcing a relationship as well as help pad your budget while traveling. Unfortunately, over $1 billion of these little plastic treasures go unspent annually, so it’s essential to know which ones to buy, send, and use whether traveling abroad or sending them Internationally. 

Are There Gift Cards that Can Be Used Internationally?

The short answer is yes – there are any gift cards that can be used internationally. These international gift cards are used by financial institutions, merchants, and major credit card companies.

There may be different fees and restrictions associated with these cards (imposed by the card issuers), including expiration dates and limitations or restrictions on online purchases.

The major credit card companies offer blanket protection and almost instant access to purchases via debit and gift cards throughout the United States.

After all, what commercial business is going to refuse a purchase made with an American Express, Mastercard, Discover, or Visa card in any form as long as the monetary value is up to par?

Here’s the rub: while those brand logos (like that famous circles design) are recognized globally, the spending rates aren’t in most cases. 

International fees and currency transfer rates can significantly change the value of an existing gift card, making it either too hard to transfer or simply not worth the effort. That’s not to say all gift cards are worthless outside of America because that’s a ridiculous notion in the technology-driven 21st century. But you have to make sure the chosen gift card is recognized Internationally prior to checkout. 

American Express and Discover cards are never accepted outside of the United States, even in Canada. However, some gift cards, such as Visa and Mastercard gift cards, can be used in other countries–as long as they clearly state that. International Visa gift cards are especially common. Fees and regulations should also be listed on the packaging when and wherever you buy gift cards. 

Are Prepaid Cards Good for International Travel?

Prepaid cards may also be sold where you’d get your favorite gift card, but they are not the same thing. Prepaid cards differ in one specific way: they can and are meant to be reloaded. However, while they can be used internationally, that’s not a given. A prepaid card has rules and regulations just like gift cards, although often far fewer rules. If you can get a reloadable gift card, note the restrictions as most labeled gift cards are only spendable within the United States. Prepaid cards, specifically, are not guaranteed to have any protection, regardless of which logo is on the card. Fortunately, each prepaid card or company will list those protective clauses. 

Prepaid cards for specific stores or businesses can rarely be used internationally. But even a Visa or Mastercard prepaid card may have domestic limits. Reloadables are meant to be purchased once and then have additional funds added as the initial value is spent. For that reason, they’re often safer and smarter budgeting solutions for domestic travelers than debit or traditional credit cards. If you do want an international prepaid card, you’ll need to opt for a specific travel card such as Visa Travel Money which is intended for such needs. 

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Can Amazon, Walmart, Mastercard, Visa Gift Cards Be Used Internationally?

Most travelers don’t worry about whether their favorite gift card will be honored on their adventure. They simply pack the gift card (or cards) and expect a well-known business name will be accepted without question. Unfortunately, many travelers are disappointed due to blind faith and lack of pre-planning. Regardless of the card logo, most gift cards are issued by a specific bank or business and are therefore restricted to domestic use. Some common brand rules are as follows: 

Amazon Gift Card – Amazon has a different site for each country it serves, and each site requires an Amazon gift card be bought and spent in that region; i.e.: an amazon.com card cannot be used in Canada, but an amazon.ca card can. 

Best Buy Gift Card – While a Best Buy gift card is easily spent at Best Buy, it is only accepted at stores and online in the United States. 

Home Depot Gift Card – Home Depot is one store that may accept a Home Depot gift card in any of its stores or online throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Check the FAQ online before checkout or on the gift card packaging for current rules. 

iTunes Gift Card – While Apple is a global name, an iTunes gift card can only be used in the United States. 

Walmart Gift Card – Walmart operates in over 55 countries globally, but the company still doesn’t sell international gift cards. Any Walmart gift card bought in the U.S. can only be spent domestically.

Whole Foods Gift Card – Whole Foods may now be a subsidiary of Amazon, but it’s still considered an American company and its gift cards are only accepted in the United States. 

American Express Gift Card – An American Express gift card is only accepted throughout the United States. 

Mastercard and Visa Gift Card – Mastercard and Visa play by similar and different rules. Because the company logos are recognized globally, Visa gift cards are easier to find for international use. However, they have to be marked as such. The same goes for a Mastercard gift card. 

Do International Prepaid Cards Have Foreign Transaction Fees/Where Can You Find Them?

Prepaid cards and gift cards can be a great alternative to ATM cards or a wallet full of credit cards while traveling. It’s essential to be aware of potential transaction fees, though. Most specific stores or businesses are pretty lax on that, but prepaid cards that are tied to banks can come with a lot of extra fees. These can include monthly usage or inactivity fees up to $10, loading or ATM fees up to $6 per transaction, and a foreign transaction fee of up to 3% every time it’s used. Always, always, always check the fine print prior to buying any prepaid or gift card. 

While most gift cards can only be used domestically, Mastercard and Visa debit cards, prepaid or otherwise, can usually be used anywhere.

Some of the best International Visa gift cards include:

Some of the best international Mastercard gift cards include:

At the very minimum, always read the fine print and FAQs to make sure you’re not taken unaware by unnecessary or expensive surprises when out of the country due to your chosen prepaid or gift card limitations. And safe travels! 

Where to buy international gift cards?

You can purchase international gift cards at financial institutions and at the same place that you buy regular gift cards – retailers like Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Costco.

Typically international gift cars will not be specifically labeled “International” gift card. You’ll need to read the fine print on the back of the card. It will be marked on the card’s wrapper where the card can be used and what the international transaction fees are, if any.

Are All Visa Prepaid Cards for International Use?

Most Visa prepaid cards can be used internationally, however, there may be international transaction fees.

And with a Visa prepaid card, like with any gift card, there may be merchant limitations. For example, some U.S. Visa gift cards cannot be used for online, telephone, or mail order purchases. This is because there is a higher fraud risk for catalog and online retailers.

Because of additional fraud risks, international gift cards for Visa and other types, often come only in physical plastic card format. Electronic or eGift cards, with electronic delivery, are sent via email and are designed to be used online.

If you need an international eGift card (i.e. for a client or coworker in a different country), your best bet may to purchase a country specific gift card for that individual that can be used online. Amazon has lots of international, electronic gift card options.

How Do Your Register an International Gift Card?

If you do need to register a gift card, you can do so online or by phone. Typically, this is a requirement for Visa, Mastercard, or American Express (Amex) gift cards specifically for the US, and it is required only for online purchases.

In the event you need to register an international gift card, it’s easy for the recipient to do so.

  1. Go to the gift card registration page (the website should be printed on the gift card packaging or printed on the card.)
  2. Follow the prompts to register your name, gift card number, and security code.

That’s it. You may need to create a free account online and include an email address to use as your account login and to use for verification purposes. If you do need to provide an email, do not give your work email address.

  • Your work may block the email from coming through.
  • You could lose or quit your job.
  • Either of these issues becomes a big problem if you later forget your password and the website will only send a password reset to your work email.

Just use your personal or non-work email address that you can access from anywhere.

What if My International Gift Card is Stolen?

In some situations you may be able to get your card replaced if you have the receipt and you contact the card issuer before the funds are depleted.

But in most instances, you’ll be out of luck. Put another way, what if you took out cash from the bank and got robbed around the street corner? The bank will not give you that same amount of money again. You may be directed to file a police report but that’s about the extent.

Most gift cards, international and otherwise, outright stipulate that they will not replace stolen cards. So pay attention and keep close tabs on your gift cards.

Can Amazon, Walmart, Mastercard, Visa Gift Cards Be Used Internationally?

Most travelers don’t worry about whether their favorite gift card will be honored on their adventure. They simply pack the gift card (or cards) and expect a well-known business name will be accepted without question. Unfortunately, many travelers are disappointed due to blind faith and lack of pre-planning. Regardless of the card logo, most gift cards are issued by a specific bank or business and are therefore restricted to domestic use. Some common brand rules are as follows: 

Amazon – Amazon has a different site for each country it serves, and each site requires an Amazon gift card be bought and spent in that region; i.e.: an amazon.com card cannot be used in Canada, but an amazon.ca card can. 

Best Buy – While a Best Buy gift card is easily spent at Best Buy, it is only accepted at stores and online in the United States. 

Home Depot – Home Depot is one store that may accept a Home Depot gift card in any of its stores or online throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Check the FAQ online before checkout or on the gift card packaging for current rules. 

iTunes – While Apple is a global name, an iTunes gift card can only be used in the United States. 

Walmart – Walmart operates in over 55 countries globally, but the company still doesn’t sell international gift cards. Any Walmart gift card bought in the U.S. can only be spent domestically.

Whole Foods – Whole Foods may now be a subsidiary of Amazon, but it’s still considered an American company and its gift cards are only accepted in the United States. 

American Express – An American Express gift card is only accepted throughout the United States. 

Mastercard and Visa – Mastercard and Visa play by similar and different rules. Because the company logos are recognized globally, Visa gift cards are easier to find for international use. However, they have to be marked as such. The same goes for a Mastercard gift card. 

Do International Prepaid Cards Have Foreign Transaction Fees/Where Can You Find Them?

Prepaid cards and gift cards can be a great alternative to ATM cards or a wallet full of credit cards while traveling. It’s essential to be aware of potential transaction fees, though. Most specific stores or businesses are pretty lax on that, but prepaid cards that are tied to banks can come with a lot of extra fees. These can include monthly usage or inactivity fees up to $10, loading or ATM fees up to $6 per transaction, and a foreign transaction fee of up to 3% every time it’s used. Always, always, always check the fine print prior to buying any prepaid or gift card. 

While most gift cards can only be used domestically, Mastercard and Visa debit cards, prepaid or otherwise, can usually be used anywhere. Some of the best International travel card solutions include: 

AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card

Green Dot Prepaid Mastercard or Visa Card

TD Connect Reloadable Prepaid Card (fewer fees if you’re already a TD cardholder)

Netspend® Visa® or Mastercard Prepaid Card

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard 

Travelex Money Card – promoted by Mastercard International Incorporated

Visa Travel Money 

At the very minimum, always read the fine print and FAQs to make sure you’re not taken unaware by unnecessary or expensive surprises when out of the country due to your chosen prepaid or gift card limitations. And safe travels! 

Where to buy international gift cards?

You can purchase international gift cards at financial institutions and at the same place that you buy regular gift cards – retailers like Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Costco.

Typically international gift cars will not be specifically labeled “International” gift card. You’ll need to read the fine print on the back of the card. It will be marked on the card’s wrapper where the card can be used and what the international transaction fees are, if any.

Are All Visa Prepaid Cards for International Use?

Most Visa prepaid cards can be used internationally, however, there may be international transaction fees.

And with a Visa prepaid card, like with any gift card, there may be merchant limitations. For example, some U.S. Visa gift cards cannot be used for online, telephone, or mail order purchases. This is because there is a higher fraud risk for catalog and online retailers.

Because of additional fraud risks, international gift cards for Visa and other types, often come only in physical plastic card format. Electronic or eGift cards, with electronic delivery, are sent via email and are designed to be used online.

If you need an international eGift card (i.e. for a client or coworker in a different country), your best bet may to purchase a country specific gift card for that individual that can be used online. Amazon has lots of international, electronic gift card options.

How Do Your Register an International Gift Card?

If you do need to register a gift card, you can do so online or by phone. Typically, this is a requirement for Visa, Mastercard, or American Express (Amex) gift cards specifically for the US, and it is required only for online purchases.

In the event you need to register an international gift card, it’s easy for the recipient to do so.

  1. Go to the gift card registration page (the website should be printed on the gift card packaging or printed on the card.)
  2. Follow the prompts to register your name, gift card number, and security code.

That’s it. You may need to create a free account online and include an email address to use as your account login and to use for verification purposes. If you do need to provide an email, do not give your work email address.

  • Your work may block the email from coming through.
  • You could lose or quit your job.
  • Either of these issues becomes a big problem if you later forget your password and the website will only send a password reset to your work email.

Just use your personal or non-work email address that you can access from anywhere.

What if My International Gift Card is Stolen?

In some situations you may be able to get your card replaced if you have the receipt and you contact the card issuer before the funds are depleted.

But in most instances, you’ll be out of luck. Put another way, what if you took out cash from the bank and got robbed around the street corner? The bank will not give you that same amount of money again. You may be directed to file a police report but that’s about the extent.

Most gift cards, international and otherwise, outright stipulate that they will not replace stolen cards. So pay attention and keep close tabs on your gift cards.

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