Payroll Cards Explained: How They Work, Types, and Examples


A payroll card is a convenient and flexible prepaid card that employers use to pay their employees’ wages. It provides an alternative to traditional payment methods like direct deposit and paper checks. Payroll cards, supported by payment processors such as Visa or Mastercard, offer employees the flexibility to access their earnings in various ways. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what payroll cards are, their benefits, how to use them, and why they are gaining popularity.

What is a payroll card?

A payroll card is a prepaid card that employers use to pay their employees’ wages or salaries during each payday. These cards serve as a digital alternative to the conventional methods of payment, such as direct deposit or paper checks. They are reloadable, giving employees the flexibility to access their earnings conveniently. These cards are typically supported by payment processors like Visa or Mastercard, allowing workers to use them for electronic payments at various locations, just like a regular debit card.

Employer benefits

Employers can offer payroll cards as a convenient alternative to direct deposit or as a service for employees who do not have bank accounts. This is especially beneficial for employers who hire temporary or seasonal workers, as it streamlines the payment process. The process of enrolling employees in payroll cards is typically managed by the company’s human resources or payroll department. It resembles the setup process for prepaid debit cards. Service providers like Visa or Mastercard offer additional customer service benefits, such as assistance with lost or stolen cards, emergency card replacement, and cash advance services.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimates that over 6 million American households do not have a bank account, highlighting the importance of alternative payment methods like payroll cards.

Using payroll cards

Payroll cards offer employees an alternative way to receive their wages. Employees can use payroll cards for various financial activities, such as automatic bill payments or withdrawing cash from an ATM. These cards can be replaced if lost or stolen, and employees and employers can easily add funds to them. Service providers may also offer additional benefits, including:

  • Making purchases online or at point-of-sale locations.
  • Using payment applications or “apps” for transactions.
  • Sending money to friends or family through mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
  • Tracking deposits and purchases for better financial management.
  • Setting up balance alerts to monitor card activity.

Do employees need to qualify for a payroll card?

No, employees do not need a good credit score or any credit history to receive and use a payroll card. Unlike credit cards, payroll cards do not involve credit lines or overdraft options. They are a secure and accessible method for employees to receive their wages without the need for a traditional bank account.

Can employees use a payroll card like a credit card?

No, employees cannot use a payroll card to acquire debt like they would with a credit card. Payroll cards do not provide a line of credit, and overdrafts are not allowed. Instead, they function as a convenient means of accessing the funds an employee has earned without incurring debt.

Why are payroll cards gaining popularity?

Payroll cards are gaining popularity due to the shift from physical cash to digital payments. With the increasing acceptance of online bill payments and the use of cards for transactions in stores, payroll cards offer employees the flexibility of mobile payments. They cater to the evolving needs and preferences of today’s workforce, making it easier for employees to manage their finances in a digital world.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Comprehensive Explanation: The article provides a detailed explanation of what payroll cards are, how they work, and their benefits, making it easy for readers to understand the concept.
  • Informative Key Takeaways: The key takeaways section summarizes the essential points, offering a quick reference for readers to grasp the significance of payroll cards in personal finance.
  • Clear FAQ Section: The FAQ section addresses common questions, further enhancing readers’ understanding of payroll cards.
  • Professional and Readable: The article maintains a professional tone and readability suitable for a finance website, adhering to grade 6 readability guidelines.
  • Useful Pros and Cons Section: The pros and cons section offers a balanced view of the topic, helping readers make informed decisions about using payroll cards.
  • Limited International Information: The article could benefit from providing more information about the international use of payroll cards, as this is an area of interest for some readers.
  • No Specific Provider Information: While the article mentions Visa and Mastercard as payment processors, it doesn’t delve into specific payroll card providers or their differences.

The bottom line

A payroll card is a valuable tool for employers to efficiently pay their employees’ wages. It not only serves as a convenient alternative for employees without bank accounts but also comes with customer service benefits, including lost or stolen card replacements. In an era where digital payments are on the rise, payroll cards empower employees to pay bills, shop online, and send money to friends and family with ease.

Frequently asked questions

Are there fees associated with payroll cards?

While some payroll card providers may charge fees, it varies by company and the specific terms of the payroll card program. It’s essential for both employers and employees to review the fee structure carefully.

Can employees choose not to use a payroll card?

Typically, employees have the option to receive their wages through other methods, such as direct deposit or paper checks. The use of payroll cards should be a voluntary choice for employees.

Can payroll cards be used internationally?

Whether a payroll card can be used internationally depends on the card’s network and the policies of the card issuer. Some payroll cards with major payment processors like Visa or Mastercard may be used for international transactions.

How do employers load funds onto payroll cards?

Employers can load funds onto payroll cards through electronic transfers. Typically, this is done in coordination with the company’s payroll department, ensuring that employees receive their wages promptly on payday.

Can employees split their wages between a payroll card and a traditional bank account?

Yes, some payroll card programs allow employees to split their wages, directing a portion to the payroll card and the remainder to a traditional bank account. This flexibility caters to employees with diverse financial preferences.

Key takeaways

  • Payroll cards are a convenient and flexible prepaid card solution used by employers to pay their employees’ wages or salaries, offering an alternative to direct deposit or paper checks.
  • Employers can use payroll cards to pay employees who do not have traditional bank accounts, making them particularly useful for temporary or seasonal workers.
  • Payroll cards provide a range of benefits, including the ability to pay bills, shop online, make mobile payments, and withdraw cash at ATMs.
  • Employees do not need a good credit score or credit history to use a payroll card, as it is not a credit card, and there is no line of credit or overdraft feature.
  • Payroll cards are gaining popularity as digital payments become more widespread, offering employees the convenience of mobile payment capabilities.
View Article Sources
  1. Visa Payroll Card Program – Nevada System of Higher Education
  2. Payroll – Pay Card FAQs – Northern Arizona University
  3. What is a payroll card? – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  4. Are there any fees to use a payroll card? – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  5. Compare Prepaid Debit Cards – SuperMoney