Prospective Seller of Prepaid Wireless Cards/Minutes

by Ingrid
(Buffalo, NY)

I am an entrepreneur that started a home based business almost a year ago. I am now looking to expand my business by offering my customers airtime chit cards/minutes for their wireless phones. However, I do want to know if a company that will be sending me the cards offers me a discount with 10 or 20 in a pack that has a value of $29.99 printed on each cards, as a merchant will I get a discount based on the total in the pack or a discount based on each individual card in the pack? I also would like to know what kind of machine will I need to activate the cards in order to issue my customers a receipt with a phone number and a pin so that they could retrieve their minutes? I'm assuming the machine looks like the ones used for accepting credit/debit cards, but I'm not sure. If someone could answer these questions for me as soon as possible I would greatly appreciate it. I am eager to get started in this portion of my business. Thanks in advance for your time.

Comments for Prospective Seller of Prepaid Wireless Cards/Minutes

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 21, 2010
Prepaid Wireless Terminals
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Here are answers to your questions:

1. There are varying types of machines/brands that you can get. You're correct that they are much like the ones that process credit card transactions. In fact, most can/do process credit/debit cards, as well as print PINs, or perform real time replenishment for prepaid wireless. In terms of what specific terminals, you'll ultimately end up working with technology service providers who will provide you with the actual terminals. i.e. You wont' be shopping around for them yourself.

Another option is to use a Web based application that you can access from any authorized computer. This is the more common technology these days, as it provides much more flexibility and easier updating of product catalogs and special promotions. You'll print out the PINs on any printer connected to your PC.

2. The cost of the machines can vary. Depending on your anticipated volume and contract with the technology service provider(s), you may not have to pay anything for the terminal, you may have a lease option (ex. $50/month), or you may be asked to purchase it/them outright, which can be two or three hundred dollars (though prices can vary widely).

Terminals (i.e. not Web terminals) can be used with dial-up or Internet based connections. Most modern terminals use Internet based connections, though dial-up still does exist.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

Oct 20, 2010
Ready to get started
by: Ingrid

Thanks for all the wonderful responses to my questions. Sorry it took me sometime to get back with you. I have learned so much about the wireless business since my initial contact with your company. However, I think I have reached a decision in the way I will proceed, but before I do so there is two more questions I would like answered if possible. My questions are: 1.What type of machine will I need to activate the card so that I can print the pin # for my customers?

2.How costly are they and do I need a landline to hook the machine up to? I am thinking the machine looks something like the ones used for a credit card, but I am not for sure. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks in advance for your time and responses.

Sep 29, 2010
Hot Cards vs. POSA Cards vs. ePINs
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Good question. It sounds like you want to merchandise the cards (i.e. hang them on a peg in your store, or otherwise display them for customers to take and purchase. Erring on the side of providing too much information, here's some background on various card types that will hopefully help:

Hot Cards:
- These are physical cards that you would receive in a shipment in an inactive status. Once received you would contact the provider, or use a Web interface to activation them. These cannot be merchandised and must be kept under lock and key. I don't think you're interested in these.

POSA Cards:
- POSA = Point Of Sale Activation. With these, customers take a card off the shelf/peg, bring it to the register, and scan the card. Scanning can be via bar code scan, or magnetic stripe like credit/debit card. Scanning them in this manner activates the card so that it is now in a "hot" status such that the customer can redeem the PIN to their account.

- Electronic PINs are usually printed on a receipt. However, the customer experience is usually that they take a card from the shelf/peg and bring it to the register just like for POSA cards. The difference is that while this card looks like a real card, it has no PIN printed on the card and is referred to as a dummy card, chit, or placebo. It's only used as a tool for the clerk to scan so that they can initiate the sale of a PIN printed on a receipt. This dummy card can then be put back on the shelf for reuse. Sometimes the card doesn't even have a bar code on it to scan at all. The clerk sees the card and uses a binder that has all of the PIN values on it, and scans a bar code in the binder to initiate the sale.

It sounds like you're most interested in POSA cards. Hot cards and POSA cards usually have an expiration on them. While it varies by carrier, 12 months from the time of activation is typical. Expiration lengths are often governed by State laws. HOWEVER, in my experience, I've NEVER seen a carrier actually follow through with expiring cards. When cards are approaching expiration, carriers know that they haven't been sold, and will almost always extend the expiration date. Knowing what your carrier's policies on this is worth knowing. I've never seen dealers stuck with cards they can't sell b/c they've expired.

Note that with dummy cards (for ePINs), these don't have a value and never expire per se. Though terms and conditions sometimes printed on the back can be outdated. These cards can be discarded when old and replaced with new ones. Think of these as mini posters as opposed to a product that has a value.

I hope this answers your questions. Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions. For more information on this topic, you can also visit and read the Prepaid Wireless Cards and PINs sections:

Adding Money

Sep 29, 2010
Expiration of display airtime chit cards.
by: Ingrid

First let me take this opportunity to thank the prepaid wireless guy that responded to my initial 2 questions, your answers were very helpful. However, there was one more question that I forgot to ask. Again if you or someone can answer this question for me in a timely manner I would greatly appreciate it. I truly would like to get started in this aspect of my business, but I would like to weigh my options of either getting the physical cards or going virtual. My question is:if I decide to go with the option of having the physical cards sent to me how will I know when those display cards expire? Is there a code on the back that will let me know that? If so that means I would have to keep getting new display cards each time that happens. Or The display cards never expires only when activated or the pin is sold to a customer. This question is been asked just to ensure this part of my business does not get stuck with cards that are of no value at some point in time if I do go this route.Thanks again for your time and looking forward to a response.

Sep 24, 2010
Selling Prepaid Wireless Cards - Part 1
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

This is a very good question, and one that I've been getting a lot recently. I expect that the increased interest is as a result of the tremendously fast growing prepaid wireless market, and all of the media attention that it has been receiving recently.

First I'd like to ask if you're sure that you want to buy physical airtime/topup cards? This type of product is considered by most carriers to be a legacy product/technology that most carriers and dealers have either already moved away from or are seeking to minimize or eliminate. They are still pretty much the norm in large retailers (ex. Walmart, Best Buy, Target, etc.), mostly because they need to merchandise the product on the shelf, and have a fast and easy sale. Though even these retailers are moving towards real time replenishment and/or ePINs.

Anyway, assuming you (or others) are in fact interested in this physical topup card product, here are some answers to your questions:

- Carriers will usually give you a margin on the face value of the card. For example, they may sell you a $20 card for $18. So selling that card for $20 gives you a $2 profit. Note, also, that there's usually a transaction fee associated with the processor who will be activating the cards for you (see below).

- While most carriers don't provide volume discounts (i.e. buying more cards at one time or buying larger bundles of cards), it's certainly something to look into.

Sep 24, 2010
Selling Prepaid Wireless Cards - Part 2
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

- There are basically two ways to sell these types of hard cards. The first, and most primitive method, is to buy them in bulk in a cold or non-active status. When you receive your shipment, you'll contact the carrier and they'll activate them either in batches or all at once. You then need to securely store them as you'll basically be sitting on a pile of cash in the form of topup cards. I've seen stores held up at gun point, and forced to open their safe; literally!

- The second way of selling these types of cards is by activating them one at a time as you sell them. This is what I believe you had in mind, because you noted needing a credit card type machine to activate them. That's exactly right. You'll need to be in touch with a transaction processor that works with the carrier or carriers that you're interested in. They will either sell you, lease you, or give you the appropriate terminals to activate the cards depending on your relationship with them, and the volume of sales you'll be getting. It's highly unlikely that you would have a direct relationship with a prepaid carrier. These terminals can usually also be used to take credit card sales, sell ePINs, long distance PINs, etc.

- Another method that is becoming more common in an attempt to avoid having all kinds of terminals to setup, manage, and maintain, is to use a Web based tool to activate the cards. This can be done easily by either manual entry or scanning in of the card serial number.

There's a LOT more information I can provide on this topic, so please feel free to let me know any specific follow up questions or area(s) of interest, and I'd be happy to help!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Prepaid Wireless Questions.

Be Heard!  Let prepaid wireless providers know what you want; fill out the survey now.