I am a visitor on a valid visa to the US from India. I have less than 1,000 US dollars. Can I purchase a prepaid debit card for this amount to enable me to make online purchases in the US?

  • Depends on what you mean by "online purchases". You can buy Amazon gift cards with cash at grocery stores, for example. – Greg Hewgill Jun 7 '18 at 22:03
  • @GregHewgill a prepaid debit card would normally be a MasterCard or Visa so usable anywhere. – phoog Jun 7 '18 at 22:07
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    @phoog: I understand. But if whatever product(s) the OP needs is available from Amazon, a gift card is a way to easily make online purchases without setting up a bank-like account (which may be difficult or impossible for a tourist). – Greg Hewgill Jun 7 '18 at 22:13
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    @GregHewgill there's no bank-like account as I understand it. You pay the money and you get a card. – phoog Jun 7 '18 at 22:27

Certainly. They can often be found at grocery and drug stores with the other gift cards. You can find a list of retailers on websites like Visa's locator. You'll probably want one with a Visa or MasterCard logo to ensure it is wildly accepted.

Note that these cards have a variety of limits and fees attached, sometimes including monthly fees. You may find that a retailer is not able to add the entire amount for you at once, as they'll only accept so much cash, and you'll want to review the fees to ensure you aren't charged unnecessarily.

Visa's website has a guide that explains some of the quirks of using these cards, such as understanding how restaurants may place a larger hold on your card because of tips. To use them for online purchases, a registration step is often required, as they don't have a name and billing address attached. The card should have a phone number or website you can visit to complete this step.

As noted in comments, these stores will also have gift cards for specific merchants, such as Amazon, which may be less trouble and lower cost if you know you'll be shopping at once place a lot.

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  • Authorisations to cover tips? Really? – gerrit Jun 8 '18 at 13:48
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    @gerrit Sorry, I'm not sure what you're saying. That's what it says on the Visa page. If you have a $95 meal and try to use your card with $100 on it, you could have the payment declined. That seems like something you'd want to know in advance. I rephrased it to be more clear. – Zach Lipton Jun 8 '18 at 17:03
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    I'm surprised there is such a thing as authorisation to cover tips. Surely I should be able to pay a $80 restaurant bill using exactly $80 on the card and leave a cash tip? What is the restaurant going to do if they cannot authorise the card for the tip — refuse service? I've never heard that they do. Hence my surprise. – gerrit Jun 8 '18 at 18:29
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    The bank will assume you want to leave a tip on the card and place a hold for some percentage. Once the final charge is entered into the system, they'll remove the hold and replace it with the final charge. And restaurants often won't reconcile the receipts immediately, so you may be stuck for a day or two. – pboss3010 Jun 15 '18 at 17:44

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