I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for American Express Serve. I applied for the Serve Cash Back card to facilitate my review and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my plan to use a prepaid debit card to curb my spending. Since then, I’ve had a chance to put my prepaid debit card into action, and today I’m sharing my findings!
Vacation Budgeting with a Prepaid Debit Card – #ServeSomeGood
I originally thought I would use this prepaid debit account for grocery budgeting, but then something even better popped up. I had the opportunity to accompany my mom to San Francisco to meet her college classmates from Mumbai.
We had paid for many expenses up front, but I knew I’d need spending money and cash for things like baggage fees, lunch at the airport, souvenirs, etc.
Thanks to my friends at American Express Serve® Cash Back, I had $267 loaded onto my prepaid debit card ready to use!
I am notoriously bad about sticking to a budget on vacation – my personal motto is “I didn’t go on vacation to save money!” As you can imagine, I sometimes go way overboard on spending. This was my opportunity to reign in my vacation spending and stick to a predetermined budget. I was nervous, yet excited at the same time!
Real Life Vacation Budget Tracking
I’m not one for fancy budgeting methods, so I came up with a simple plan. I kept a sheet of note paper in my wallet for tracking my $267 vacation budget. Every time I made a purchase, I would simply subtract the amount from the remaining total, so I always had a clear picture of what remained in my prepaid debit account.
Here’s a look at my tracking sheet:
I kept the receipts wrapped around the prepaid debit card in my wallet so they would be easy to find. This helped when I had to check out in a hurry and needed to reconcile more than one receipt at a time.
I just pulled out the prepaid debit card wrapped in receipts and wrote down the most recent amounts on my tracking sheet!
I realized soon after leaving that $267 was actually a little too much for this trip since we had prepaid for several dinners and transportation during the day.
So I surprised my mom by telling her I was covering her incidentals for this trip by using my American Express Serve® Cash Back card…she was beyond excited! That’s why you see amounts like $18 for snacks and airport waters. It was for two people. 🙂
Lessons Learned Using a Prepaid Debit Card for Budgeting
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep track of my spending using such a simple budgeting method. By knowing ahead of time that I had $267 and only $267 to spend, I knew I couldn’t go crazy with souvenirs, yet I knew we’d have enough to eat well and cover incidentals.
The simple act of tallying up the remaining balance after each purchase helped keep that subtotal in the back of my mind, which I weighed against every purchase. It also gave me peace of mind knowing that our expenses were prepaid. I was able to purchase what we needed without focusing on pinching pennies. I even bought a snack on the plane for $8.99 and watched a movie for $6 on the way back because I knew we were under budget at that point!
I felt like I was able to “treat” myself to little splurges even though it was all predetermined. In addition to what you see on the receipt above, I made those in-flight purchases and bought small souvenirs for my girls.
We returned home with $44 left on my American Express Serve® Cash Back card. I knew our house was likely running out of staples (since I do the grocery shopping!), so we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and spent $40 on milk, bread, fruit, lunch items, etc.
Upon arriving home, we had $4 left on the prepaid debit card. Two people had a great time on vacation in San Francisco without shelling out any cash out of pocket other than to tip our Uber driver! I was amazed.
It was so nice to not worry what our bank account looked like after taking a vacation. I knew exactly what we had spent, and it was all contained in a separate prepaid debit account.
The best part? Check out what happened when I logged into my email the following morning!
I really appreciated receiving this email. I mean, what good is using a prepaid debit card if you don’t know when it’s about to run out?
Overall, I am very happy with my experience using the American Express Serve® Cash Back card for vacation budgeting. I am going to do this for every vacation.
Just so I don’t have to pinch pennies on our trips, I will likely save up a bit extra and preload it into my prepaid debit account. That way, we can spend freely within reason and keep all those costs out of our checking account.
Recap of American Express Serve® Cash Back Card Features
The American Express Serve® Cash Back card has many features that make it perfect for budgeting on vacation:
- No minimum balances or hidden fees
- Free direct deposit if desired
- 1% cash back for every dollar spent (it’s added to your account promptly after each purchase, so you can spend when you choose)
- Ability to pay bills, buy groceries, shop online, withdraw cash from ATMs just like you would with a regular debit card
- Enjoy American Express cardmember benefits like 24/7 customer service and access to special offers from brands on Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter at sync.americanexpress.com
- Purchase protection on eligible purchases
- Access to the Roadside Assistance Hotline
I can’t believe I forgot to mention the 1% cash back part before this! That’s actually one of my favorite things about this prepaid debit card. In fact, I believe American Express Serve® Cash Back is the only prepaid debit card that offers 1% cash back right now.
To get your own American Express Serve® Cash Back card, you can register online (which is free) or purchase one at a retailer for a small fee (up to $3.95). To get your budgeted amount onto the card, simply transfer money to the card from your bank account or set up direct deposit.