How to Use Mastercard Gift Cards for Budgeting

Using Mastercard gift cards or prepaid cards for budgeting may help you avoid overspending and going over budget over the course of a month. If you want to budget with gift cards, you should figure out the categories of your budget that are causing problems and purchase a gift card or load a prepaid card with exactly how much money you are willing to spend on that category. We recommend starting with the categories that give you trouble each month. 

This article will tell you all you need to know about using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting to help you make smart financial moves in the months to come and find a good way to utilize Mastercard gift cards as you plan out your budget. 

Earn Cash Back On Gift Cards with Gift Card Granny

Gift Card Granny is an online service that supplies gift cards from many retailers. Gift Card Granny makes it easy to buy and send customized gift cards online and earn cash back while you do. Gift Card Granny carries thousands of local and national brands, including Visa gift cards, Mastercard gift cards, and gift cards for many amazing retailers.

Text eGift Cards on GiftYa

Another popular gift-giving site is GiftYa, which also offers customizable eGift cards! GiftYa lets you add custom photos or videos to all your gifts in the form of a virtual gift wrapper. A GiftYa can be sent by text or email, so the gift is always delivered within minutes. You can also schedule the gift to be sent on a specific date, such as a birthday or holiday. With over 16,000 local merchants and 280 national merchants usable at over 230k locations across the US, you can find the perfect gift for anyone!

Using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting can save you time and effort.

How to Use a Mastercard Gift Card for Budgeting

Using a Mastercard gift card for budgeting can prove a great help to track your monthly expenses and remove the possibility of overspending. This section will talk about how to use a Mastercard gift card for budgeting, where to buy gift cards and a few examples of gift card usage. 

Using prepaid gift cards are great ways to travel without credit cards, debit cards, or cash. You can buy gift cards for yourself, but there is a small fee to purchase and activate these cards. We do not recommend switching out all of your spending with Mastercard gift cards, rather picking out the problem areas where you find yourself overspending and limiting yourself to the funds available on one card each month. 

Where to Buy Mastercard Gift Cards

Mastercard gift cards are available in many in-store locations, as well as online on Mastercard’s website as well as many third-party retailers like Gift Card Granny. Purchasing a gift card online lets you add exactly how many funds you want onto it as well as customize it to suit your tastes. You can add a budget-appropriate picture and message line related to the spending you will use it for. Let’s talk about some of the most common problematic budget categories. 

Categories for Mastercard Gift Card for Budgeting

Budgets, usually, are divided into many parts, each one relating to a specific type of purchase. We’ve highlighted four categories:

  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Entertainment
  • Clothes

We will talk about how Mastercard gift cards for budgeting are helpful in each of these categories, but these cards are best used in whatever category makes you overspend on a monthly basis. One of the difficulties with conventional budgeting is that there is no physical obstacle to going over budget. The spreadsheet is powerful, but if you fill out your takeout budget in the first half of the month it is up to the power of your will to stay away from your favorite local places until you flip your calendar. 

Using a Mastercard gift card for budgeting can be a smart financial move because it adds one obstacle for every applicable category. This means, should you run into the risk of breaking your budget, you will hit a purchase where your gift card gets declined because of insufficient funds. If you routinely check your gift card balance (which we recommend), you will see a dwindling number of remaining funds every time you make a purchase, which will help you make smart financial moves for that budgetary category instead of purchasing more and more through the course of the month. 

Using Mastercard Gift Cards for Budgeting Food

Food is a tough category to budget because it is one of the few things we really need every day. Let’s start with groceries. Finding a good balance when buying groceries means you are on the lookout for ways to save on a micro scale and a macro scale. On a micro scale, you can swap out some name brands for store brands, and cut back on some premium purchases, if you make any. On a macro scale, you can start meal planning and avoid meals with expensive ingredients or start shopping at an Aldi. 

For restaurants, a Mastercard gift card for budgeting helps you plan out how many trips you can make and how much you should spend on each. There are a lot of ways to save a bit on restaurants, like ordering water instead of a drink or skipping appetizers, but it comes down to finding out what is worth it for you. If a three-course meal at a local place with a nice glass of wine brings you great joy, then we recommend fewer and more expensive nights out, but if you are meeting friends and know the company is what makes you happy and not the restaurant itself, ratcheting back on spending is a good way to stay under budget. 

The Mastercard gift card comes in as a strong reminder whenever you run close to your budget. It may catch you off-guard by getting declined because there are not enough funds, in which case you have to split the payment with an alternate method like cash, or if you stay on top of it you’ll be better prepared to skip out on a meal if you know another meal will take you over budget. 


Drinks are another serious expenditure in many budgets, and these are another where it is easy to overspend month after month. Drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) add up fast. Going to Starbucks three times a week may net out to around $20, and getting a drink or two after work a couple of times a week might be another $30. What’s nice about working on a drink budget is that a lot of the cost comes from small excursions, making it easier to fine-tune the budget than with groceries and food. 

Clothes Shopping

Clothes are an interesting category when using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting because some people love clothes shopping and go voluntarily, while others avoid it at all costs. Regardless of how your friend sees this activity, budgeting their monthly expenses is a smart financial move. 

It is important to plan your purchases to ensure you make a smart financial move next month. 

Pros and Cons of Mastercard Gift Card for Budgeting

Gift cards are an amazing gift and allow for serious flexibility in the hands of someone using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting. There are, however, cons to using these cards as well.  Let’s jump into the pros and cons of prepaid gift cards.

Mastercard Gift Card for Budgeting— Pros

There are a number of benefits to using a Mastercard gift card for budgeting. 

Hard Limits

A conventional budget is mainly limited to an idea. You can write out, “I will spend no more than $200 this month on restaurants,” but nothing is stopping you, other than your willpower, from going out twice a week each week and ending the month solidly over budget. A Mastercard gift card comes with a set balance and no way to add more funds. While not the most monetarily efficient, the hard limits when you use Mastercard gift cards for budgeting help stay within budget even if it means you have to skip out on some end-of-the-month purchases. 


Another boon for Mastercard gift cards for budgeting is that you can put exactly how much money you want on it (between $5 and $500). This lets you customize the cards to your budget and put on exactly how much you are able to spend that month. 

Another smaller pro of this is that you can customize the card itself to your specifications. At Gift Card Granny, you can build your own gift card design and find one that perfectly suits your budgeting category. 

Prepaid Mastercard gift cards also allow you to add a custom picture, a gift message, and a logo.

Virtual or Plastic

Many gift card retailers, like Gift Card Granny, allow you to purchase a virtual or plastic gift card. The virtual gift card is sent immediately to the recipient’s email address, and the plastic card is shipped. Plastic gift cards are a bit more weighty, and virtual gift cards are excellent when paired with Apple or Google Pay. 

Mastercard Gift Card vs. Visa Gift Card — Cons

There are, unfortunately, cons to using a prepaid gift card as well. The limitations of these cards can catch new users unaware, resulting in an overall negative experience. If Mastercard gift cards for budgeting ever become a headache, instead of a smart financial decision, you are ready to go back to classic cash budgeting or a Prepaid Mastercard. Here are some common drawbacks to using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting. 


All Mastercard gift cards have a pair of fees associated with their use. There is a purchase fee and an activation fee which total around $5 per card. This is not a lot, but it does eat into your budget and adds up quickly after months of using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting. 

We recommend using gift cards to help your budget only if you find they stop you from going over certain budget categories. 

Splitting Purchases

The final purchase of any prepaid gift card is always the most challenging. To make the most out of the card, you have to ring up a purchase greater than the remaining balance on the card (or equal if you are really lucky) and split the payment between the prepaid card and another form of payment you have on hand. Many retailers have procedures to make this happen, but if it starts to annoy you, you can switch to another form of budgeting. 

Using Mastercard gift cards for budgeting can be a smart financial move if you find you often overspend on your budgetary categories. 

Mastercard Gift Cards Versus Mastercard Prepaid Cards

There are a lot of ways to budget, and Mastercard gift cards are one that helps a lot of people stay within their allocated spending. Our last piece of advice: don’t get tied down to one way of budgeting if you aren’t sure it is the best one for you. While using Mastercard gift cards to budget might not be a long-term solution for you, trying it out for a few months may yield important information. 

How can I use a Mastercard gift card for budgeting purposes?

One of the benefits of using a Mastercard gift card comes when you are budgeting monthly purchases. If you find that there’s a piece of your budget that often gives you trouble, consider using a Mastercard gift card as an additional obstacle to keep you on track. You’ll get a big reminder when you look at the balance of your Mastercard each month, and you can use whatever you have left over as a bonus for the next month. 

Can I reload a Mastercard gift card with additional funds?

No, you cannot reload a Mastercard gift card with additional funds. There is another kind of card available at Mastercard called a Prepaid card, which functions similarly and allows you to reload your Mastercard with additional funds. 

Are there any fees associated with using a Mastercard gift card for budgeting?

The fees associated with Mastercard gift cards are purchase and activation fees. Once you pay those fees when purchasing the card, there are no fees associated with using a Mastercard gift card for budgeting.