Earning Miles & Points with American Express Bluebird

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I bought a Bluebird starter kit from Walmart with a mile earning debit card and have been playing with it while ignoring my wife.  Frequent Miler says that Bluebird “changes the game” and I agree with him that there is a lot of potential!  However, I just hope that we can use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird and are not forced to use Bluebird Feeder packs.

Bluebird is a new pre-paid debit card from American Express.

You can sign-up online for a Bluebird card, or visit a Wal-Mart and buy a starter kit and fund it up to $500 using cash or a debit card.


Bluebird Starter Kits at Walmart

There is a $5 fee if you buy the starter kit at Wal-Mart.  You register your starter kit online at Bluebird.com and will receive a permanent card within 10 business days.

Bluebird-miles-points 6

Inside the Bluebird Starter Kit

Bluebird has the potential (I’m still testing) to turbo charge the way we earn miles and points.  You can pay rent, utilities college tuition, mortgages, and even credit card bills and potentially earn lots of miles and points!

You can store up to $10,000 on your Bluebird card.

What Can Bluebird Do For You?

1.  Pay Rent, Mortgage, Credit Card Bills, Utilities, or College Tuition.   The best use of Bluebird to me is the ability to pay for transactions which can’t usually be made with a miles or points earning credit card.

Sure, you can pay a convenience fee of 3% or higher, or use a service such as William Paid for rent or ChargeSmart for mortgages, but it just isn’t worth it for the points, though it can be worth it to help meet the minimum spending requirement for a credit card sign-up bonus.

Bluebird has a Pay Bills option which includes most mortgage companies, utilities, and other payees.

You could even earn points and miles for paying your credit card account and no longer be jealous of the Brazilians!


Pay Your Chase Credit Card & Mortgage with Bluebird!

There is a limit of $10,000 in payments per month for payments to entities already listed in the Bluebird Pay Bills.

2.  Pay ANYONE.   This is actually part of #1 above, but I wanted to emphasize just how important this can be.

For example, let’s say that the person or business you want to pay, say, your apartment complex or your contractor or your college is NOT listed in the Bluebird Pay Bills option.


Pay Anyone With Bluebird Pay Bills

You can enter that person’s or business information manually and send up to $5,000 per month, per account, with Bluebird.  Bluebird will send a check to the person or business.

3.  ATM Withdrawals.  You can load your Bluebird card with a miles and points earning debit card (Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines) or with Vanilla reload packets and earn miles or points for the load.

You can then withdraw up to $500 per day (in up to 3 daily withdrawals) and up to $2,000 per month with your Bluebird card.  You can use this feature to help complete a minimum spending requirement on a card.

There is a $2 fee per ATM withdrawal (waived until November 4, 2012), unless you set up Direct Deposit to your Bluebird card and use a MoneyPass ATM. Many employers will let you split your paycheck to different bank accounts.

Note that you can’t direct deposit your US government salary including federal wages, salaries, social security, etc.

Other options to mimic direct deposit could potentially include:

  • Linking an account from PayPal or Amazon Payments
  • Transferring money from other bank accounts online

Please comment if you know of other ways to mimic a direct deposit.

I wouldn’t abuse this option because American Express likely has systems in place to detect potential abuse.

How it Works

Unfortunately, you can’t load Bluebird directly with a miles and points earning credit card.  You could try to find a Wal-Mart store which lets you purchase or reload Bluebird with a credit card, but I was unsuccessful.  I doubt this option will materialize.

However, you CAN directly load Bluebird with a miles or points earning debit card (Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines).  But this option is expensive.  It costs $2 per debit card load and you are limited to $100 per day and $1,000 per month.

bluebird-miles-points 3

Direct Debit Card Loading is Not Worth it

In other words, you will pay $20 per month ($2 per load X 10 debit card loads) for 1,000 Delta miles or 500 Alaska Air miles which is NOT worth it.

I’m still testing Bluebird, but here are the ways Bluebird could make it easier to earn miles and points.

1.   Fund Bluebird Indirectly With a Credit Card.   The most promising option to fund Bluebird is with a Vanilla reload.  You can buy Vanilla reloads with a credit card at Office Depot (many other shops require you to pay cash).  There is a fee of $3.95 per Vanilla reload card.

Bluebird miles points

Vanilla Reload Cards (Cards labelled “Prepaid Reload”)

You earn 1 point per $1 spent with a regular miles or points earning credit card at Office Depot or 5X points if you use a Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or other Chase Ink cards.

For example, let’s say you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred or your Chase Ink Plus to buy a $500 Vanilla reload card from Office depot.  You will earn 500 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Ink Bold and pay $3.95 for the Vanilla reload fee.

You then load your Bluebird card with the $500 Vanilla reload card and use it for transactions for which you don’t usually earn miles or points  – such as paying mortgages, withdrawing from ATMs, paying other persons, etc.

You come out slightly ahead when you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but the real payoff is when you use the Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold or other Chase Ink card.

You can load up to $1,000 per day and up to $5,000 per month using a Vanilla reload.

However, I won’t be surprised if we can’t use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird given how potentially lucrative Bluebird could be for folks using miles and points.

My gut tells me that we may not be able to use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird, and we may have to use Bluebird feeder packs instead.  I hope I’m wrong about this!

2.   Fund Bluebird With a Debit Card Using Swipe Reloads. 
I was able to pay for my Bluebird starter pack using a debit card.  I tried to use a few different credit cards, but they were all rejected.

I’m going to see if I can reload my permanent Bluebird card using a debit card at Wal-Mart.  The terms for “Swipe Reloads” say:

“…by presenting his or her Card and cash or other acceptable tender at a participating retailer (a “Swipe Reload“)

I’m hoping that I will be able to reload my Bluebird card at Wal-Mart with a miles earning debit card since I was able to buy the starter Bluebird with a debit card.

If that works, I can earn Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines miles for routine transactions!

Bottom Line

I’m eager to see if I can earn miles and points by using BlueBird, and I’ll keep you folks posted.  If this works, I will be able to earn miles for paying student loans, rent, ATM withdrawals, and paying bills.

If you do use Bluebird, go easy with the ability to withdraw money via an ATM.

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66 responses to “Earning Miles & Points with American Express Bluebird

  1. great article, well written and easy to understand. I will call you “Professor Miles”

  2. ArkansasTraveler

    Would they let you use a Walmart gift card to fund the Bluebird card? Most Walmart stores treat a Walmart gift card like cash, but you can buy a Walmart gift card with a credit card. It would involve one extra step, but it might work.

  3. LOL @ Shoaib. I like appreciate his posts as well.

  4. steven in the bay


    Thank you for the post. It is too good to be true. Ann depends on INK family.I think Chase will stop this loophole soon. Is there any other good way to reload points? And for american airline debit card, do you ever try it? Can we trust ufb direct?

    Have a nice day!

  5. Great post. I’m curious why you question the ability to load via Vanilla Reload packs. The documentation is very clear that you can: https://bluebird.com/faqs/?linknav=us-Prepaid-Bluebird-Home-Faqs#cash

    The real issue is that many people do not have nearby Office Depot stores or they are not stocked with Vanilla Reload cards. Some people have found other local stores that carry them and let you pay by credit, but that is unusual.

    As to loading via credit card in-store, I do know of another major retailer in a similar situation where some stores allow it and others do not so I wouldn’t be surprised to find the same with Walmart. Either way, if Walmart allows loading via debit card with swipe-loads for no fee, and if those loads earn miles (with the SunTrust card, for example), that’s still great!

    • @Shoaib @Lively – Thanks!

      @ArkansasTraveler – Great idea, and I will definitely try that.

      @steven in the bay – I’m testing the UFB bank card now. I’ve had great service from UFB bank and their online interface is very good.

      @Frequent Miler – I’m looking at it from a branding perspective. AMEX has spent lots of money branding bluebird, and I’d argue that they want to brand the reload mechanism as well, so I wasn’t surprised to see the Bluebird Feeder packs. Allowing you to reload with a “Vanilla Card” is confusing and dilutes the equity (but earns us lots of points!). But I hope I’m wrong.

      Wal-Mart is very well run, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they prevent credit card reloads at stores since they likely lose money on those transaction. It could work at some shops, but will help only a small group of folks. The debit card fee is much lower, so perhaps that will work, which is still great and isn’t the end of the world.

      Looking forward to your research!

  6. For loading with debit card, we all know that we can use debit card to buy MO at WMT. and we all know that may raise red flay to the issuing bank. so what the benefit of Blubbird for loading with debit card? just saving $0.7 per $1k?


  7. Just wondering if I could figure out what mortgage companies are available before getting the card? Specifically, do you know if Wells Fargo is available as a Bill Pay(ee)? Also, do you know/would you guess that there are any associated fees with paying a mortgage this way? This would be absolutely fantastic if I could get any (1x or 5x!) pts for paying my mortgage.

  8. It would be great if you could load the bluebird card with an Amex card (either online or at WalMart) that ways AMEX does not lose any money on the transaction 🙂

  9. The Bluebird feeder packs are only $50 or $100 denominations? Man that would really kill the little value proposition that would be left by using a points earning debit card.

    • @allen – The benefit is that you can make payments larger than $1,000 easily via BlueBird. You can also use Bluebird for ATM withdrawals which could earn points.

      @Ben – There are no fees which I know of for paying a mortgage via Bluebird.

      @Grant – I could be worth trying to see if you can load Bluebird with the AMEX prepaid cards at Wal Mart. Wells Fargo home mortgage and Wells Fargo credit cards are both listed. You can sign-up for a Bluebird account to see which companies are included.

      @the #hustle blog – The $1 reload fee kills it for debit cards with the feeder packs.

  10. Where did you see the debit card daily load limits?

    I was hoping to do $500 per load, at $2 per. That would have worked for me. At $100 per load, no chance of course.

  11. No love for Serve user. Look like you have to cancel Serve before they let you sign up for BB.

  12. I’ll certainly be paying attention to this, as paying the rent without a hefty fee would be HUGE! However, it seems like it might be too new to jump into with both feet yet. I’ll wait for a few more ambitious people than myself to attempt it and see what happens.

  13. This card got the Potential to be a game changer but not this moment I feel. it is revolving around the single loading scheme that at best maybe loadable(vanilla). other than the debit accounts, there are no other potential easy loading scheme. also for mortgages and property taxes which are in the thousands $ for some, I dont know if its feasible since vanilla cost $4 per 500. for example, my prop tax bill is 5k per year and mortgage is around $2500. itt would cost me 4 x5 cards = $20.

  14. Unfortunately you have to give up your Serve card in exchange for blue bird if you want one. The downsides of blue bird vs serve is that you can’t fund it by credit card like serve (although just for $250 a month).

  15. Daraius, when you create your account online and go to Funding Options, it says that you can use a Vanilla card. So, let’s hope it’s true! It will be nice to be able to pay my rent and car payment through this account.

  16. @Choi – I think the point is that even if you don’t use an Ink card to buy the vanilla cards (0.8% fee for card but 5x points), at the very least you could meet the minimum spending for sign-up bonuses and get at least 1% return in miles or points depending on the credit card you use to buy with. The options here could be amazing, especially using and Ink card.

  17. I love the option to send people money. This is something I did with the Netspend card, but my account was unfortunately shut down. If this turns out to be as good as it appears, I might just use this for all my spending.

  18. Just called BlueBird and confirmed that:

    1) The permanent blue bird card will accept Vanilla Reload card upto 10,000 per month. I think this could kill the INK loophile at OD soon.

    2) Blue Bird cannot be loaded using Walmart giftcard.

  19. FYI just tried to buy and load with a Walmart giftcard and it didn’t work…on to another plan

  20. So let me see if I have this correct. Say I have a $1000/mo mortgage payment. I go to Office Depot and buy 2 $500 vanilla cards for $8 fee. I earn 5000 points worth at least $50 (I net $42 after the fee). I then load the bluebird with the vanilla cards and pay my mortgage with the bluebird for free. Did I miss something?

  21. Sal, that’s the potential of BB. But from some people’s reports, BB can’t be loaded with the vanilla cards. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that I have a BB on its way so I’ll give it a shot.

  22. @Dave – I believe people have been reporting that they can’t load with a vanilla card because they have temporary cards. I confirmed with with Blue Bird CSR that you can use Vanilla Reloadable card to fund Blue bird once you have the permanent version.

  23. steven in the bay

    Please do not talk about vanilla reload. I personally do not believe vanilla reload can be used in Blue bird card even you can find it on blue bird website. Even you can use it for some time, eventually either chase, or office depot, or vanilla or american express will make it impossible in the near future. Let’s wait and see.

    Let’s talk about if there is no vanilla reload, what should I do? Is there any nice way to feed bluebird?

  24. what happened to the reduce credit card spending link?

  25. Daraius, agreed. i was just saying it makes little sense to load BB with debit card in WMT..

  26. Can BB be used as a debit card to buy MOs?

  27. beside the Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or other Chase Ink cards. Does Freedom have any additional points?

  28. and does Freedom or Sapphire treat this as a “advance cash” or “normal charge”?

  29. I thought I read somewhere that we can reload at Wal Mart with a Chase card. Every OD in Hawaii seems not to have Vanilla reload cards.

  30. You stated “You can pay rent, utilities college tuition, mortgages, and even credit card bills and potentially earn lots of miles and points!” Is this confirmed? If confirmed, is it limited to specific platforms and issuers? This is huge if it works. E.g. purchase Vanilla reload with a points/miles card (Chase, Citi, BOA Visa/MC, Amex, etc.), load BB then pay monthly CC statment with BB. Can you confirm?

    • @Preacher – Haven’t tested as yet.

      @Tommy – Freedom doesn’t have bonus points for office supply stores. Since it is an Office Depot purchase, it currently appears as a regular purchase.

      @Lkohawaii – You may be able to reload at Wal-Mart with a debit card.

      – It is confirmed that you can pay bills with bluebird. What I’m still working on is how to reload bluebird to earn miles and points. Note that there is a purchase fee for Vanilla, so it works best with the 5x category bonus at Office Depot.

  31. People, please read the post as well as the comments. Most, if not all of your questions have been answered.

  32. Would be nice to know if “Feeder” refills could be purchased using a Walmart gift card. If so I would make use my old MileagePlus Select Visa which pays 2x points on Walmart purchases to get more United miles faster than Explorer.

  33. hi Daraius, what kind of fees does UFB airline checking has? Looks like they only do American Airline? thanks.

  34. My local Walmart (NC) does not have the Bluebird kiosk. Any recommends where I can find them and Vanilla Reloads? Keep up the great posts! Thanks, Chas

  35. I when to Walmart but the cashier did not let me purchase the BB card with my sapphire card. Told me I could only buy the card with cash or debt?

  36. UFB airline checking is a miles earning debit card. I;m trying to get some more info. anyone used it?

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  38. If a person does not have the Ink Bold, it would still make sense to use SPG Amex or Chase Sapphire.. correct? $3.95 (Vanilla fee) would give you 500 points which is still a great deal

  39. @G | “October 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm | If a person does not have the Ink Bold, it would still make sense to use SPG Amex or Chase Sapphire.. correct? $3.95 (Vanilla fee) would give you 500 points which is still a great deal”

    Not really – the 500 points is worth about $5 so you make $1. Of course you probably drove 10 miles round trip to get to the Office Depot which is a depreciation of about $6 on your car… so the net is a loss of $5!

  40. Just to be sure, when registering for an account at BlueBird.com, they will automatically mail a Amex BlueBird card? Asking because I signed up earlier this week and did not see a notice of any kind saying “a new card is on its way!”.

    Do you you know?

  41. A quick question: I am trying to sign up the Bluebird card on their website. I’ve noticed that there is a section for SSN. Why do they ask this information? Is it OK to put my SSN number there?

  42. So they would’t do a credit check or anything correct?? I know this is a prepaid card so the credit score is irrelevant here but just in case. I am double checking. I’ve applying Chase credit card three times this year (got all of them right away) and want to be careful.

    Thanks once again.

  43. This is like a whole new world I ventured upon. Amazing post and even more informative comments. I’ll definitely be back to find out more about these points and how to use them to my advantage.

  44. Michael Belisle

    just wondering if anyone has found out if bluebird can be loaded with walmart gift cards?

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  49. Hi
    I have one problem. I tried to register for the Bluebird account online. But I was rejected and the pop up window told me it was because I had an existing serve account.. However, I did not have it( I am pretty sure). I also called America express serve and they checked in the system and tole me that they did not find my serve account. So, they asked me to retry registration again and again. All of my trials failed because the same problem: existing serve account. I am not idea what should I do. Did anyone experience the same thing???

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  54. So with Bluebird, I get miles for the amount of my credit car bill? That sounds like a good double dip. If I only used it to pay a credit card bill that was X dollars per month, I would be getting X more miles per month using Bluebird, Is that right?

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  57. my credit sucks. I have no debt and my old credit history isn’t great. everything is old or paid off. how can i get airline miles using a credit card or debit card. I have not qualified for any new credit cards. Thanks Sherry