$0.88 Debit Card Fee = LOTS of Delta & Alaska Air Miles For Mortgage, Car & Student Loan Payments!

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It is usually hard to earn miles and points for making mortgage, student and car loan, and utility payments.  Sure, you can pay a fee to use a credit card which earns miles and points, but you usually will also pay a ~3% convenience fee which is almost always worth more than the miles and points earned.  However, it could make sense to pay the convenience fee to help get the sign-up bonus from a credit card.

I wrote earlier about using ChargeSmart to pay student loans, and how to reduce the cost by using the Chase Ink Bold or American Express Blue Sky Preferred.  But that isn’t always convenient.

Well, here’s an easier way!

Wal-Mart Money Center

Wal-Mart has a Money Center where you can cash checks, buy money orders, and pay bills through their Bill Pay service.

Walmart Money Center

Walmart Money Center

The Money Centers are usually located in the customer service center or next to it.  You have to go a physical Wal-Mart store to use the Wal-Mart Bill Pay service.  You also have to have a debit card with a PIN to use the Bill Pay option and you can’t use a credit card to pay bills.

I experimented with their Bill Pay service using a debit card.  I was able to pay my Sallie Mae & AES student loans and electric bill using a debit card with a PIN and earn miles!

I asked the teller if I could pay mortgage and car loans via Bill Pay, and he indicated that I could as long as they are “in the system.”  I then asked him if Bank of America and Chase loans could be paid, and he said they could.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an online list of business whom you can pay using Wal-Mart’s Bill Pay service, so you have to go to the store and ask if your lender or service provider is included.

Delta Debit Card

In September, I went to the Wal-Mart Money Center and made a student loan payment for $261.19 to Sallie Mae using my Delta debit card.

I chose the cheapest payment option for 88 cents, so my payment took 3 to 4 business days to post to my account.  I could have paid $1.88 for the payment to post the next day, but didn’t see the need for it.

The teller asked for my Sallie Mae account number, which was on my loan statement and for my telephone number to process the payment.  I swiped the debit card and entered my PIN to complete the transaction.

The miles posted to my Delta account a few day ago!

The Delta debit card has a personal and business version, but the personal version earns 1 mile per $1 spent, whereas the business version earns only 1 mile per $2 spent.

Alaska Air Debit Card

On the same day, I used my Alaska Air debit card to pay my electric bill of $123.20.

I chose the cheapest payment option for 88 cents, so my payment took 3 to 4 business days to post to my account.

The teller asked for my utility account number, but I had brought a paper copy of the bill so it was easy to find.  I swiped the debit card and entered my PIN to complete the transaction.

Again, the miles posted to my Alaska Air account a few day ago!

The Alaska Air debit card is available only for personal checking accounts, but earns only 1 mile per $2 spent or half the amount of miles as the Delta debit card.

Be Careful

As always, this was my personal experience, and your experience could be different!  Lots of activity at Wal-Mart Money Centers could arouse suspicion at the banks.

I don’t expect this to last very long, because I suspect giving away lots of Delta or Alaska Air miles for only an 88 cent fee isn’t commercially viable for some of the parties involved.

Bottom Line

Paying 88 cents for Delta or Alaska Air miles for paying your bills using the Wal-Mart Money Center could be a great deal for some folks!

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67 responses to “$0.88 Debit Card Fee = LOTS of Delta & Alaska Air Miles For Mortgage, Car & Student Loan Payments!

  1. Could you use these debit cards to purchase $1000 Money Orders at Wal-Mart for only a 70 cent fee?

  2. can you pay your quarterly taxes there at the walmart money center? what bills can you pay there and what cant you?

  3. That sounds so amazing! I would be rolling in the points if I paid my mortgage, etc. at Walmart. I think I might break down and get a Suntrust Account.

  4. @Preacher: You could but then you will have to spend $0.45 on postage.

  5. Are there sign up awards for Sun Trust? The link goes to an offer that expired in July.

  6. MMS- does a bill pay post to the debit card exactly the same or differently than a regular Walmart purchase?

  7. @MMS, what do you think of the new BlueBird Card that AMEX and Walmart announced today? http://www.fool.com/investing/businesswire/2012/10/08/american-express-and-walmart-launch-bluebird-a-new.aspx

  8. I didn’t know PIN transactions accumulated miles with the Alaska debit card. I just decided to cancelled my card too!

  9. Awesome info!

    Does it matter if you run the Alaskan debit as credit or with the pin? Do both earn miles?

  10. Am I understanding correctly?

    You paid .88 cents to pay a $261.19 bill to Sallie Mae, using your Delta debit card from SunTrust Bank?

    So, for your .88 cents, you will receive ONLY 261 Delta miles, on a SunTrust Delta Debit card, that you are already paying a $75 annual fee for, including any additional monthly fees???

    Further, if one was to pay, say a $1500/month mortgage every month for a year using this method, they could expect to get 18k Delta miles a year and pay a $75 annual fee + 10.56 in Wal-Mart fees.

    Even if you threw in some other monthly bills (student loan, utilities, etc), I don’t see this as being too cost effective for Delta miles that are already hard to use…maybe I’m missing something??

  11. Brilliant ~ I too am going to have to get a Sun Trust account!

  12. Was this a PIN-based debit transaction, or a signature-based debit transaction? Do they accept signature-only debit cards on the same basis?

  13. @ BillyBob

    Add your credit card payments in there. Say you do 2k a month in credit card payments, there’s another 24000 miles, which lowers your cost per mile to (18000 + 24000)/(2(.88 * 12) + 75) or 2.2 cents a mile. Maybe not great for a traditional points-earning opportunity, but these are expenses you have to pay anyway, so you might as well earn on them.

  14. Do banks send you a 1099 for the value of the points/miles at the end of the year?

  15. @billybob,
    Many small streams turn into a big river. Your return is the sum of all your efforts. A few points from many sources may turns into a ticket to Europe or Asia.I didnt hit 200k Delta miles overnight. Moreover diversify. Finding award tickets can be difficult when you don’t have much flexibility. I just used 210k AA points (at 1.5c/mile)to go with my family in coach to the Caribbean over thanksgiving. Expensive, but I am not using my own money and it will be the last vacation I can take for the next 1-2 years. You don’t always have to get business class to Europe. It’s all about doing what’s reasonable for you.

    • @Greek2me – It says ” POINT OF SALE DEBIT Wal-Mart Super” which I’m assuming is the same as the way a regular transaction appears. However, the identifying code on the receipt is different (as it is for different transactions).

      @Grant – Thanks for the tip. I’ll look into it. You can fund with debit cards so looks interesting!

      @Ariana – You only earned 1 mile per $2 with the Alaska Air card, so it wasn’t the best option.

      @CD – You can’t run it as a credit card at the money center, so you’re forced to use the PIN.

      @BillyBob – You’re right that this is time-consuming and isn’t for everyone. That said, even if I value Delta miles at 1 cent per mile, I still come out ahead by earning 261 miles for only 88 cents. I got the card for the 30K sign-up bonus earlier, so I’ve already paid the annual fee. Delta miles aren’t particularly useful, but could make sense for folks for whom Delta is the only option or to get flexibility when it comes time to book awards.

      @lairdb
      – It was a PIN transaction.

      @Ken – Citi sent a 1099 for miles earned via bank accounts last year, but no one else does it to the best of my knowledge.

  16. I urge people to call up their local Walmart and find out if they can pay their mortgage company and student loan company before they rush out and signup for a Suntrust account. I just called two local Walmarts in PA and both told me that I could NOT pay Sallie Mae while one said I could pay my mortgage company and the other said I could not. YMMV.

  17. Wow, where are all the complaints that Daraius ruins deals? What happened to those people? It’s already the afternoon.

    My first guess is that they’re all new experts in Swiss/Canadian aviation law and are arguing with each other over spilled milk cancelled LX tickets.

  18. Thanks MMS. Are you aware of any other places beside Walmart where this can be done, as I like to spread spend around?

  19. @ Doug, Zz, & MMS,
    Thank-you for your further explanations on how to best make this work for most. I appreciate your feedback and counterpoints on my question to better help me (and maybe others) understand.

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  21. With SallieMae you can call and pay your monthly amount with a credit card. I’ve used a Discover and two different Chase cards to do it. They all came through as a charge, and not a cash advance.

    • @Arnaud – I suggest going to the money center with your bill to see if they have your lender in the system. The clerks aren’t very well trained, so it helps to go to the store where they can ask someone else if they are not familiar with the system.

      @harvson3 – Shhh! Don’t jinx it!

      @greek2me – Kroger has a similar service, but I haven’t tried it out yet.

      @BillyBob – You’re welcome. Thanks for the question!

      @deqqef – Thanks for the tip. I’ll try it out tomorrow. Was there a surcharge for using a credit card?

  22. Wouldn’t this also be another way to meet the minimum spending on another credit card by purchasing a debit card and then using it to pay off other bills/loans/etc…? Can you use a walmart gift card to pay off bills?

    I learned today that you can by lottery tickets with a gift card, so for anyone who plays the lottery regular it might be a good idea to purchase a gift card via credit to get some miles/points. Of course, assuming that the credit card will be paid off in full, win or lose :).

  23. I’m gonna drop by and see if they’ll let me use my debit card to pay off my credit card, thus earning me an extra 0.5-1 point/$1 on all of my credit card purchases.

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  25. I stopped in a Wal-Mart to ask about this bill pay service.
    They offer two different bill paying services. (http://www.walmart.com/cp/Bill-Payment/632045)

    The first is CheckFreepay for Standard (.88 cents) and Next-Day ($1.88) Bill Payment services.
    (http://www.checkfreepay.com/cda/checkfreepay/L2.jsp?layoutId=46481&menuId=46469)
    As stated, there is no list of what bills can be paid this way.

    The other bill pay service is MoneyGram.
    MoneyGram is for Express Payment service and cost $3.95.
    MoneyGram does have a full list of billers online at: https://www.moneygram.com/wps/portal/moneygramonline/home/paybills/billerlist/!ut/p/c5/fY7NDoIwEIQfaZcUSz1WMC2IRUQFuRAMSgD5ORASeHrLxZvOZE7fbHYgBe0un6oyH6u-y9-QQEozQYSkghMUDBm6pu1LJ4gIImp-p5ncOijNALfiJhx0GSNkd9gT3V2vvzQwjqjpxlPUMgwUFsSQoJlFNRuO85j4iz1d6iWclc9RLa5OaKjxdCpu5-uOO3x4FhI8SMt3_9Db4nXt_-8rxx_iCEr27ROG9jo1zYt_AKyfG8Q!/

    I don’t know if CheckFree and MoneyGram use the same 4 digit codes.

    At the Wal-Mart I inquired with, they had a MoneyGram Payment Service flyer to fill out. On the inside cover of this was a list of common bill payers.

    Don’t know if this post confuses or helps with the biller codes and who can be paid and who cannot.

    One would think that CheckFreePay and/or Wal-Mart would make the list of who can be paid available online. CheckFreePay does state in their press releases that over 2500 billers can be paid using their service.
    http://phoenix.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=94799&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1323894&highlight=

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  27. AlohaDaveKennedy

    This is not going to last very long. Cardinal Fang has gotten wind of this scheme and is gearing up for a Spanish inquisition. Be warned.

  28. Does anyone know if you could use the US Airways MasterCard. I have a PIN for taking money out of ATMs. Would it work as running a transaction as a debit card and using my PIN?

    • BillyBob – Thanks for the link!

      @AlohaDaveKennedy – Both the cardinals or just one?

      @PAY Young – You’ll get charged a cash advance fee for using a credit card. I don’t believe the US Air debit card earns miles any more.

  29. My US Airways card (which I only used for Grand Slam and no other suspicious activities) was changed to a regular BOA debit card last month. I believe all US Airways cards were discontinued.

  30. The clerk in the local Walmart told me that I can not pay using bill pay service.

  31. @Million Mile Secrets: No surcharge. It used to be that I could pay however much I wanted on the card, but last time I called they only let me pay the amount due. Really that’s just a convenience issue: by credit card it’s a one-time payment that has to be done by phone. So you’d have to call every month, instead of paying a few months worth in advance. But it might have just been the guy I talked to this time.

    • @Karen – Not sure what happened, but you can use a debit card with the Wal Mart Bill pay service.

      @deqqef – Thanks! I called and the wanted a $14.99 credit card fee and I couldn’t pay more than the monthly amount due. I’ll call again later to see if they still charge the fee.

  32. @CD
    BofA cancelled all us air debits. I just switched over to the Alaska debit instead so I can earn something with this acct.

  33. I called Suntrust and they said the checking account needed to have this card requires a $3k minimum balance otherwise there is a $12/month fee. This is still intreaging because of the possibility of paying off credit cards and mortgages. I have several 0% balance cards that are ending the introduction period I am hoping I can pay off with this strategy.

  34. @DaninSTL I just received my Alaska Airlines debit card also.

    I tried to use it at the Walmart Money Center the day I got it and the transaction was declined. I called BOA but the department they said I needed to talk to was closed. So I called the next day and got the third degree from the CSR who was asking why I was using Walmart instead of the BOA Bill Pay, if I had direct deposit, and why I got a new debit card. I said I do use the BOA Bill Pay, but it takes a few days and I needed this payment posted ASAP. I then explained I got the new debit card because my US Airways debit card was cancelled. I didn’t address the direct deposit, but I plan on getting my salary direct deposited after the Citi AA promotion gets its required direct deposits. He kept bringing up that Walmart had a lot of fraud. He seemed reluctant and kept pressing but reactivated my account.

    I seriously hope I don’t have to go through this next time.

  35. I forgot to add that I asked if I would have trouble the next day when I try the same transaction. He said no and the transaction did go through the next day.

    • @Dru – Let us know which cards you were able to pay off at the Money Center!

      @CD – Thanks for sharing and hope it doesn’t happen every time you use it at the Money Center. If you don’t mind me asking, how much was your transaction for?

  36. OK, here’s my experience. I wanted to pay off a lump sum on the principle on my mortgage with M&T Bank, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000. I stopped at Wal-mart to inquire. The representative had no idea which companies are registered with Checkbillpay. I spoke to a Checkbillpay rep who said M&T Bank is among the payees registered. I forgot to ask the maximum permitted per transaction, so I called back. Spoke to a different rep. She didn’t know the maximum. She called someone at Checkbillpay who didn’t know the maximum but seemingly wanted to dissuade me from making such a large payment by having her ask, “Isn’t there another way you can pay your mortgage?” There is, but I’m trying to choose this one. The Checkbillpay rep called the Wal-mart store at which I would be making the payment to try to find out the maximum permitted. She then told me M&T Bank isn’t one of the payees registered at this Wal-mart store. According to the rep, different payees are registered at different stores. This seems doubtful to me. The rep suggested I try calling another store, so I called a Kmart registered with Checkbillpay. Of course the Kmart rep had no idea which payees were registered. It’d be great if I could pull this off, but, unless someone has some good advice, I think I’m ready to give this one up.

  37. Oops, I referred to Checkfreepay as Checkbillpay in the previous post. It is Checkfreepay.

  38. @Brian – A Walmart and Kmart employee who don’t know how to do their job… Are you surprised? I almost always strike out whenever I have a non-standard question or request at these two stores especially.

  39. @Million Mile Secrets – The amount I tried to use the bill pay was around $2400. I went today to buy a $700 money order and did not have a problem.

    • @Brian @Ken – I’d go to the store with the bill and make a payment, for say, $3,000 at first. I’m sure they have some max limit, but you could find out what that limit is by trial and error. There is likely a max limit on your debit card so you won’t be able to pay the $70,000 in one payment.

      @CD – Glad it worked out today!

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  41. Can you clarify why you have to use Walmart service at all? If you can go online and pay using my Alaska debit card, why I should use Walmart service at all? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question!

  42. tried the credit card for vanilla reload at walmart, walgreens, and office depot and they would not let me use my credit card. Is it worth buying the gift cards to load onto bluebird. I have about 8k worth of bills per month. I would like to use the credit card vs. the debit card. Please advise. Thx

  43. So I went to pay my bill at the money center today and the register asked for my ssn. Anyone else run into this issue?

  44. @million mile secrets- that’s interesting I have paid that bill before and wasn’t asked. I wonder if it also has to do with the amount of the bill or the cumulative amounts of payments you have made. I assume they keep track with your phone number since that’s the first thing they ask you for.

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  46. Hey, I’m avid follower and I love your content!

    Just did a search and this post came up.

    I’m looking to find out if walmart billpay accepts payments for american express credit cards.

    Do you happen to know?

    Thanx!

  47. WMT accepts payments for Amex cards issued by AMEX and SOME other banks. For example you can’t pay a Bank Of America AMEX. The key is whether the recipient accepts payments through checkfreepay or MoneyGram. You can find a list of billers online at those sites. MoneyGram is more expensive and you have to fill out a form.
    I can’t tell you how I know this, but I have an indication STI is going to stop giving miles for automated payments made at Walmart , and that may cut off loading Vanilla for miles too. STI’s T&C are not very clear but read .”… Only PIN Point of Sale and signature-based purchases (including small dollar purchases that do not require a signature), Internet purchases, phone or mail order purchases or automatic bill payments qualify for mileage earnings.” Arguably a payment at the WMT money center is an automatic bill payment–it’s certainly not manual, but STI may have intended this to mean something else.

  48. Anyone know what to tell the clerk at the money center if you want to pay an american express credit card. I could not seem to get them to understand. Do I need a code? Maybe I need a better clerk?

  49. I’ve made loads of payments for my Amex at Wal Mart using their Bill Pay service…just crossing 100,000 miles almost all via WMT. So far, I’ve not been able to branch out to other credit cards…I’d especially like to pay Chase. Has anyone else gotten Chase to work at WMT? Also, through trial and error, anything over $2000 seems to trigger additional security and ultimately failure of the transaction to complete…is anyone else able to pay more than $2000 per transaction? It is a huge pain to bother with WMT, and deal with their employees…sometimes I have to walk them through the process regarding how to complete the transaction. But, I’m looking forward to business class to France for my efforts.

  50. PointsObsession

    I learned last week that WalMart bill pay will allow payments of $10,000 per day using a debit card and it costs $1. Not bad.

  51. I am confused. So can I go to the Walmart Money Center and pay my bills with my AMEX Gold Card to get the points?