The Best Credit Cards to Use With American Express Bluebird

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There are many different debit and credit cards which you can use with American Express Bluebird, so let’s take a look at a few different options.  We’ll look at credit cards today and debit cards tomorrow.

After all, you don’t want to buy thousands of dollars worth of Vanilla Reload packs from CVS, Walgreen’s or other locations. with just a single credit card.

American Express Bluebird Credit Card

Which Cards to Use With American Express Bluebird?

Using different cards will help reduce the potential of attracting attention with Chase since you are spreading your purchases among different cards.

You can get a very nice return by using the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (amongst others) because you earn a free weekend night after spending $10,000 within 1 calendar year AND will get 30,000 Hilton points since each $1 spent earns 3 Hilton points!

American Express Bluebird lets everyone inch towards being a Big Spender because you finally have the ability to fund Bluebird with a credit or debit card to pay your rent, mortgage and other loans with Bluebird.

I wrote an eight part series on the perks of Big Spending on a credit card – from hotel elite status, bonus points, airline elite status to companion passes.  Check it out to see which perk matters the most to you and use that credit card when buying Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot!

Table Summary

Here’s a summary of the benefits, annual & monthly spending, and Vanilla reload fees.  The return on the cash back and Citi Thank You cards is not attractive to me, but I included it for comparison. I also didn’t include the points earned on the Vanilla Reload fee – just for the base spending.

Don’t forget to include the value of your time in making trips to Office Depot.

How it Works

You load your Bluebird card (which you can order online) with a points earning debit card at Wal-Mart.  You can also reload Bluebird with Vanilla Reload cards which you can buy at CVS, Walgreen’s or other locations.  Alternate with other credit cards so that you’re not spending too much at buying Vanilla Reloads with any one credit card.

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

If you currently have an American Express Serve account, you have to cancel your account before applying for a Bluebird.

Credit Cards 

1.   Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses.   One of the best uses of American Express Bluebird is to buy Vanilla Reload cards at an Office Depot with your credit card.

The amount which you spend at Office Depot will count towards the minimum spending requirement on your credit card.

You then load your American Express Bluebird with the Vanilla Reload card and use your Bluebird for transactions for which you don’t usually earn miles and points – rent, mortgages, ATM withdrawals, paying bills by checks, etc.

2.   Citi Hilton Reserve

You earn 1 free weekend night & 30,000 Hilton points after spending $10,000 within 1 card membership year on the Citi Hilton Reserve.  A card membership year is a 12 month period starting from when you are approved for the card and ending 12 months later – and then another 12 month card membership year begins.

You can also get top tier Hilton Diamond elite status after spending $40,000 within 1 calendar year (January to December)

The Math: 

$10,000 annual spending is ~$833 per month.  This requires 20 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.  So your cost for spending $10,000 is $79 (20 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 1 free weekend night at a Hilton hotel and 30,000 Hilton points.

$40,000 annual spending is $3,333 per month.  This requires 80 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95 .  So your cost for spending $40,000 is $316 (80 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 1 free weekend night at a Hilton hotel + 120,000 Hilton points ($40,000 X 3 Hilton points per $1 spent) + 1 free weekend night

3.   United Explorer

You earn an extra 10,000 miles when you spend $25,000 within one calendar year

This means that you earn 35,000 United miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.

The Math:

$25,000 annual spending is ~$2,083 per month.  This requires 50 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.

So your cost for spending $25,000 is $197.50 (50 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 35,000 United miles.

4.   American Express Starwood Cards

You earn an extra 5,000 points when you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starwood points to many different airlines.

This means that you earn 25,000 American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Air, or US Air miles amongst others (20,000 miles for regular spending + 5,000 bonus miles) for every $20,000 in spending.

The Math: 

$20,000 annual spending is ~$1,666 per month.  This requires 40 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.  So your cost for spending $10,000 is $158 (40 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 20,000 Starwood hotel points or 25,000 air miles.

5.    United Club Card

The United Club card offers 1.5 miles per $1 spent with no cap on the amount of miles you can earn.  Let’s say you spend $20,000 on it annually to buy Vanilla Reload cards.

This means that you earn 30,000 United miles (20,000 miles X 1.5 miles per $1 spent).

The Math: 

$20,000 annual spending is ~$1,666 per month.  This requires 40 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.  So your cost for spending $20,000 is $158 (40 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 30,000 United miles.

However, the United Club card has a $395 annual fee, but does get you free access to United Clubs, 2 free bags, waived late ticketing fees, and Premier Access.

6.   American Express Delta  Platinum & Reserve

Delta Platinum Card:

Earn 10,000 bonus redeemable & elite miles (counts towards Medallion status)  on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $25,000 in a calender year.

This means that you earn 35,000 Delta miles + 10,000 elite miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.

$25,000 annual spending is ~$2,083 per month.  This requires 50 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.

So your cost for spending $25,000 is $197.50 (50 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 35,000 Delta miles + 10,000 elite miles

Delta Reserve Card:

Earn 15,000 regular & elite (counts towards Medallion status) miles on the Delta Reserve personal or business card after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.

This means that you earn 45,000 redeemable Delta miles + 15,000 elite miles (30,000 miles for regular spending + 15,000 bonus miles) after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.

$30,000 annual spending is ~$2,500 per month.  This requires 60 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.

So your cost for spending $30,000 is $237 (60 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 45,000 Delta miles + 15,000 elite miles.

7.   British Airways Travel Together Ticket

Spend $30,000 within 1 calendar year on the Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card and earn a Travel Together Ticket which can be used for award reservations on British Airways operated flights only.

The Travel Together Ticket is valid for two years from when you earn it, but can be used only ONCE.  You can earn only one British Airways Travel Together pass per calendar year, and they are valid only on British Airways flights.

This means that if you live in Omaha, but your British Airways flight leaves from Chicago, you can’t use the Travel Together ticket to get from Omaha to Chicago because British Airways doesn’t fly from Omaha to Chicago.

Expect to pay ~$400 in fuel surcharges and taxes per long-haul segment on award bookings, but that’s still cheaper than paying for a business or first class ticket. The companion pass is NOT worth it if you will be redeeming in coach because of the high fuel charges.

The Math:

$30,000 annual spending is ~$2,500 per month.  This requires 60 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.

So your cost for spending $30,000 is $237 (60 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 1 Travel Together Voucher & 37,500 Avios Points (1.25 Avios points per $1 spent).

8.   Citi Thank You Premier

The Citi ThankYou Premier offers 2 Thank You points per $1 spent for the 1st 24 months.  Each Citi Thank You point can be redeemed for 1.33 cents in air fare through the Citi Thank You portal, so you’re earning 2.66 cents towards air travel per $1 spent.

Let’s say you spend $20,000 on it annually ($1,666 monthly) to buy Vanilla Reload cards.

This means that you earn 40,000 Thank You points ($20,000 spending X 2 miles per $1 spent).

The Math: 

$20,000 annual spending is ~$1,666 per month.  This requires 40 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.  So your cost for spending $20,000 is $158 (40 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 40,000 Thank You points.

40,000 Thank You points is worth $532 (40,000 points X 1.33 cents per point), so your net gain is $374 ($532 in air travel – $158 in cost).

This is a better option than a 2% cash back for airfare below, but is it worth your time?

9.   Cash Back

Let’s say you have a cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express which offers 2% cashback on everything, or the Capital One Venture or Discover Escape which offers 2% cash back when redeemed for travel.

Let’s say you spend $20,000 annually to buy Vanilla Reload cards.  This means that you earn $400 in cash back ($20,000 miles X 2% cash back).

The Math: 

$20,000 annual spending is ~$1,666 per month.  This requires 40 Vanilla reload packs of $500.  Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95.  So your cost for spending $20,000 is $158 (40 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you $400 cash back. 

So your net return is $242 ($400 cash back – $158 cost), which may not be worth the many trips to Office Depot.

Bottom Line

There are lots of different cards to use to buy Vanilla Reload packs and they prevent large amounts of spending on just 1 card which could arouse suspicion.

I particularly like earning a free night and 30,000 Hilton points after spending $10,000 annually on the Citi Hilton Reserve, but use other cards depending on your goals and your needs.

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120 responses to “The Best Credit Cards to Use With American Express Bluebird

  1. How stupid can you ever more be?

  2. I can’t imagine this is going to last for long…

  3. It could last if people treated it responsibly, but it seems certain there will be quite a few who will go all out and ruin it for everyone. For now, I’m signing up, and if there’s time before it gets shut down, will try to use it simply to help clear signup bonuses. This could allow me to do more such spending and thus more applications than otherwise would be possible. I’m definitely not investing much excitement in it. Since I don’t have any Ink cards, the payoff isn’t great compared to the time, gas and hoops involved.

  4. Count me as one who believes this might last longer than you all think.

    -Office Depot is making money by selling the cards.
    -Vanilla makes money through the fees and by collecting interest while they hold your money, however short of a time.
    -American Express makes crazy money by holding your money and collecting interest, and through swipe fees if you use it like a debit card
    -Chase/issuer makes money by charging Office Depot a fee.

    Ultimately Chase may lose money on the 5X UR points, but they only have 2 recourses:
    1) stop giving 5X at office supply stores
    2) Work OD to stop accepting CC for Vanilla

    The second seems more likely than the first, but it will still require major strong-arming of someone with no real incentive to comply. It will be a loss when that gravy train stops, but we’ll find Supermarkets, Drug stores, convenience stores, etc to buy Vanilla cards on Credit. Meeting minimum spends is the most powerful use of this.

  5. can someone share a list of ODs that actually have Vanilla reloads in stock anywhere on the EAST COAST? particularly around DC ..? It seems the only places where reloads are available for sale in ODs are small towns like where MM lives ..?

  6. Does Chase still make an overall profit if someone buys a VR card at OD with Ink?

    • @Enough – What’s the matter this time?

      @Tim Harper @BobChi – I suspect it will get harder to get the Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot, but you could always use a debit card at Wal Mart.

      @Adam K. – I agree. It will stop at some point, and we’ll move to the next opportunity.

      @Titan limousine (ground transport IAD DCA BWI) – Take a mileage run to Kansas!

      @Rob P – They earn money when you use your Ink card, but likely not when they give you 5X Ultimate Rewards points (though we don’t know how they account for their propitiatory Ultimate Rewards points).

      @Lively – Ha! As always, do what’s comfortable for you!

  7. Very useful table above. But I think my head would spin if I bought 40 vanillas in one year. 🙂

  8. This is an excellent post for reference purpose.

  9. Great Post.. good info and easy to understand.Thank you!

  10. I think your math on Chase might be wrong. I have it as:

    The Math:

    $24,000 annual spending is ~$2,000 per month. This requires 48 Vanilla reload packs of $500. Each reload pack has a fee of $3.95. So your cost for spending $10,000 is 20 Vanilla Reloads at $3,95 each, or $79. This well get you 5points per $10,000 spend, or 50,000 points for $79, a cost of 0.0016 $/URpoint.

    It is the full $24,000 spend (Chase caps Office Supply 5x spend) would net 120,000 points for $190.

    Also, can we confirm a reason why the $3.95 fee does not earn 20 points ($4 @ 5URpts/$)?
    (20 Vanilla Reload packs X $3.95) which earns you 120,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

  11. Also, my vanilla reloads at Walgreens is $4.95, not the $3.95 you all keep saying.

  12. @Adam K. — what you just describe is equivalent to perpetual motion. Everyone involved can’t be all making money at the same time, someone is losing it. My guess it’s a combination of OD and Chase. But none of us are really profitable customers anyway since even at 1-2x point earning with no interest payments makes them barely any money. They likely make it on the 4 out of 5 suckers who sign up and carry a balance.

  13. Thank you, Daraius. It seems odd to me that Chase would give 5X UR points if they lose money on it.

  14. In theory, this sounds nice. However, the reality is that you will run into problems when you start trying to move large amounts of money through the Vanilla Network.

    Here are some of the problems you’ll have to deal with if you are trying to massively increase your spend via Vanilla cards:
    1. If you are thousands of dollars per month via Vanilla, then moving it our of your Amex account (whether through ATM, bank transfer, or large purchases), Amex will shut you down.
    2. Vanilla network does know who you are at the time that you use their card to load your account. If you try to get around the problems with Amex by having other prepaid accounts that you load with Vanilla, Vanilla will alert the prepaid card issuers to what you are doing across all of your accounts. They are obligated to do this, as this is what money laundering looks like.
    3. You will eventually end up in a position where 1 or more of your accounts will be full of cash, and it will be frozen. You will be asked to send them photos of your Social Security card and Driver’s license. You will then have to call the prepaid card issuer repeatedly to try to get your account unfrozen after you provide this information.
    4. Eventually, even if you get your account unfrozen, they will close your account when you resume the same pattern of usage (and they always seem to like to wait and do this when it is loaded with cash). You will likely be waiting several weeks for a check. In the meanwhile, your credit card bill may come due…

    Through this process, you will discover that making multiple trips to buy Vanilla cards to earn a few thousand miles/points gets really boring. The staff at Office Depot will begin to recognize you, and will treat you like a criminal.

    Vanilla works best when used in moderation, and it makes the most sense when you are using it to meet a minimum spend. Regarding Ink, consider the long-term implications of what you are doing, and what you are risking in your relationship with Chase.

    • @Greg @Mary – Thanks!

      @JW– I haven’t included the points earned from the reload fee in the calculations to keep it simple. For the Chase Ink cards, the table was correct, but sloppy cutting and pasting in the copy, which I’ve fixed. Thanks!

      @Daniel– Not all Walgreens let you buy the reload packs with cash, so I included the fee at Office Depot which lets you buy the packs with a credit card.

      @Ki7roy – You’re right that this should be used in moderation. Thanks for the warnings.

      @Daniel – Very nice!

  15. I am successful buying $500 vanilla at Walgreens in Norfolk, with HHonors Amex=6X rewards.

  16. Any reason to think that a Green Dot reload card wouldn’t work just as well as a Vanilla one? I can’t find vanilla in central Ohio for the life of me.

  17. GreenDot will work, but with other pre-paid card products. Don’t use their own pre-paid card because they’ve been reported to be worse than Netspend about random shut-downs.

  18. @rick b in many cases the person losing money is the person buying the cards! You’re taking cash you could be earning interest on and instead you’re paying others earn the interest for you. That is where most of the cash involved in this operation comes from.

    I disagree; while I think Chase may take a bath, I can’t imagine that Office Depot does. But even still, what we’re talking about is “earning” the right to fly in airline seats that would have gone empty. I would be surprised to learn that the airlines (or the hotels) charge Chase much more than incremental costs for each point, maybe a few tenths of a cent. That would still leave Chase whole even on 5X.

    We’re paying for something no one would have otherwise bought, that’s why it’s so easy to believe that most if not all parties are making money.

  19. can i pay off credit card bills with BLUEBIRD?

  20. Interest? There’s hardly any to be earned nowadays that doesn’t involve a 5 year+ CD. I definitely have no capabilities to earn high short-term interest, and it’s not like I can buy investment products with a credit card. The CC is effectively lending me money for a month so I can buy reload packs and turn them into cash that pays back the CC. How’s that me losing money?

    I’m pretty sure OD is who’s taking the biggest bath, since they can’t mark up the reload packs like other products to make up for interchange fees. You’re getting $25+ refund on a purchase of cash equivalent that costs you $3.95. Why would the reload network lose money….for all they know you paid with cash.

    And I agree, those award seats are surplus inventory but still, a free roundtrip in biz class, with a one-way tacked on to a 3rd destination is a bargain for 100-130k miles. Even if you cash out your points at 1.25 cents, that’s still a lot of value.

  21. Citi AA world mastercard?

    I disagree that the staff at Office Depot will treat you like a criminal. The night manager at my OD is friendly.

  22. Try using the Amex Cash Preferred to buy a Visa gift card at a grocery store then use that to buy the VR. Your cost goes up but you still bet 4% cash back. It’s $5.95 for the Visa plus $3.95 for VR. $500 @ 6% is $30 less $9.90 and you profit $20.10 per transaction. If WG works you get 6%. This won’t last now thanks to you.

  23. Great article, should be reprinted at beginning of year to help people establish CY goals, regardless of Bluebird I also think SPG gives you a Gold status after a certain cc spend, but I could be wrong. One thing also to keep in mind is for individuals to add up the Bluebird fee in conjunction with non-waived annual fees, as things can start adding up.

    I suspect the best use is to spread out bluebird among all cards at a low level, and make sure, as Darius earlier pointed out, that it is not a recurring dominant (standout) charge among the other charges on your monthly statement. We need an insider to publish the algorithms used to detect patterns along with policies, if they exist, ha.

    @Ki7roy I thought it was a $10k transaction that tripped reporting criteria, but I am really not that familiar.

  24. Ok, where is the cost for the gas and time to go thru all these gyrations? 80 reloads to max out a lousy Hilton card???

    Using alternate CCs (other than Ink cards) is only worth it if your time is worth pennies an hour and you can walk to your local OD – or you have a blog that encourages nitwits to grab a bunch of cards and start spending (of course, getting big referral bonuses helps to salve one’s conscience, eh?).

    I can imagine there are those who get themselves wildly in debt over these deals – thinking it’s “free money” and “free miles/points”…and we’ll soon hear sob stories about guys losing their homes, getting divorces and serving time in the hoosegow.

    Easier ways to get your spend up than 80 VRs…gawd, why not wave a red flag to the CC companies while you are at it?

  25. @daniel I was just able to buy a Vanilla with a CC at a Walgreens and it was $3.95. In Darius’ picture in the last post, it appears that his was $3.95 as well. You should try another store.

    Interestingly I went to a United Dairy Farmers, which was listed on the Vanilla Rewards website as a retailer, and they had never heard of it.

  26. I just visited 2 OD stores, then called 10 more stores – and none of them carries Vanilla Reloads. One manager told me that OD stopped selling them alltogether. They all have plenty of Vanilla visa cards for $4.95. I understand it’s not possible to reload a Bluebird with a prepaid visa.
    So unless there’s still a retailer that would charge Vanilla Reloads on credit cards, the deal is dead.

  27. There is another alternative to reduce cash payment for Vanilla fee ($158 per year is minimum, as I understand), if one needs to use not Ink card. There is a VisaBuxx card (from Nationwide bank), which is reloadable Visa prepaid card for teens, which works as real debit card. You can load this card using Visa/MC credit card (no Citi cards – since transaction will be coded as cash advance), fee is $2 per $500 load, max is $1000. So, $1K costs only $4. Therefore, if one uses non Ink cards for Vanilla reloads, $5K load per month is $20, or $240 per year.

  28. Does the frequent miler send you nasty emails for blatantly presenting his hard work as your own. The very least you could do is acknowledge him. What took you probably 10 minutes to copy took him a lot longer to come up with.

  29. @Sergey: Thanks for the VisaBuxx idea. Have you been successful in loading one from a credit card without getting hit with cash advance fees? If so, which CC’s are thus verified as safe?

  30. Really looking foward to getting the Bluebird in the mail and giving this a try. Here in Houston there are OD’s with the Vanilla Reloads everywhere, as well as the AE pre-paid, which I’m already really liking. My simple logic says as long as OD wants to sell the pre-paids, they’ll want to sell the reloads as well, and I’m perfectly happy to help them out here!

    Going to give a try using a combination of Ink Bold, Bluebird, and the pre-paid for all bills and purchases. Virtually impossible to find a business not taking AE in Houston so this should be easy. I’m budgeting to purchase more Vanilla than I really need each month but, nothing over the $2500 max you recommend. I’ll still eventually come up with more Vanilla cards than I need so while the cards say no expiration, how long can I go without using the reload before Vanilla gets ticked off?

    Would appreciate any and all suggestions or comments, as I go along…

  31. @Max: I used Chase Southwest and United explorer cards – both worked. There is a thread on slickdeals about Nationwide Buxx visa, there are some report there about which cards don’t work (Citi cards for sure). Unfortunately, I did cancel Buxx card recently and cannot check if it works now for reloading BB at Walmart.

    • @mordy – You sure can. See this post on how to use Bluebird to pay bills.

      @Con-man – Duh. That’s a great one because of the 2x office spending bonus. I’ll update the table and post with it. Thanks for the tip!

      @Milezjunkie – Why not just use Chase Ink Bold at Office Dept for 5% less 3.95, so $500 X 5% = $25 – 3.95 = $21.05 cash back?

      – You’re right – SPG gets you Gold status after spending $30K within a calendar year, but I don’t think the Gold status by itself is a great deal. But the points sure are!

      @Ron – I wrote “Don’t forget to include the value of your time in making trips to Office Depot.” I’d argue that my readers are smart enough to figure out if driving 100 miles for a Vanilla Reload makes sense or not. And to decide which credit card benefit is worth going after. I always disclose referrals up front and at the top of a post, and I do earn referrals on some of the cards in the post. On others my referal link is not the best, and I disclose that too. You can buy more than 1 reload pack at a time.

      @Max – Don’t call the other Office Depots, but visit them (if you can). Most folks on the phone don’t know what these cards are.

      @Sergey – Thanks for the tip. I actually have been playing around with it and will be posting about it.

      @Plagiarism – I haven’t seen a post on credit card rewards for Big Spenders (8 parts!) in such detail on any other blog. I drew the details most of this post from my series of posts on Big Spending. I don’t believe other blogs have covered mile earning debit cards in as much detail as I have. I also covered the Bill Pay option with Bluebird, the ability to load it with debit cards, and other experiments before anyone else. Yes, Frequent Miler was instrumental in raising awareness of Vanilla Reloads, but there is more to Bluebird than just Vanilla Reloads. 🙂

      @Matt Houston – There’s always more in Texas! I wouldn’t buy more than you need, because you have to pay of your Ink Bold balance each month and shouldn’t pay interest on it (even if you could).

      @Jenny – Thanks!

  32. Fnatastic, clear post as always. So helpful, thank you Daraius!

  33. Bought one prepaid vanilla at Office Depot last week. Went again today to buy another one from the same Office Depot. Manager told me that they have been asked not to accept credit cards for these. I guess Office Depot Management knows about this. The deal is dead. 🙁

  34. MMS,

    My thought was instead of maxing out Chase OD charges, spread it around with other cards. Can you think of any method to get 4% cash back with BB using any other method? My method would also allow 6 Hilton points per dollar but with a $9.90 fee so 102,000 HH points would cost $336.60 Not sure how valuable that is but it’s something to consider. Not only could you earn 250K UR points, you could also get 102,000 HH points with an Amex card for $336.60 by buying just 34 cards – $134.50 if your Walgreens takes CCs (mine doesn’t).

  35. Pingback: How to Use Bluebird “Pay Bills” to Pay Rent, Mortgage, Credit Cards, Utilities, College Tuition, etc. | Million Mile Secrets

  36. Right after ordering my BB card, I went back and reviewed your entire “big spenders” series. This card really opens up alot of opportunity to earn additional rewards through additional spend (mortgage, association dues, babysitters etc). Thank you for continuing to tolerate the haters.

  37. My concern is that buying these from OD with non-Ink cards will rapidly deplete the remaining supply with limited benefit. There are only so many cards left, and to buy them with another card and only get 1 point, while the folks with the Ink cards miss out just doesn’t seem to make sense. But I guess everybody wants in on this.

  38. Being curious about all this hubub, I stopped by a local OD yesterday after work – not really sure if I wanted to take the plunge or not. I guess I just wanted to see what these things looked like. Found the rack in OD, but there were no Vanilla cards at all to be seen. The pushy employee approached me and asked if he could help. I pointed to the empty spot in the rack and asked if they had more. He asked someone else (through his headset) and then said no. I asked if he knew if/when they might be getting more. He just shrugged. I shrugged too, went home.

    Today, on my lunch hour, I was near a different OD, so I figured what the heck, I’d pop in and have a looksee. To my surprise, there were about a dozen Vanilla cards there. Hmmm. I wanted to be sure I was looking at the right thing, so I pulled out my iPhone, came here, and looked at some of the photos. Sure enough, this looked like the elusive card. Well, heck, as long as I’m here…I could use some ink for the printer at home….might as well give this a try. Got the ink, handed it to the cashier, said “and I’d like $500 on this, please” handing him the Vanilla card. He rang it up, I swiped my Ink Bold card, and it all went smoothly. He didn’t even ask for my ID or ask to see the credit card.

    Now I need to go to WalMart tomorrow to get the BlueBird card.

    So, while Nit’s experience above indicates *some* ODs may be pulling the plug on this, not all have. YMMV.

    Though it’s obviously very tempting to go hog-wild with this, personally, I want to stay on Chase’s good side so I can continue to milk their other products, so I’m going to proceed carefully. No sending checks to myself, no paying credit cards, no money laundering. I’m going to use this for actual bills that otherwise can’t be paid with credit cards. And I’m going to take it easy. AFAIK everything I’m doing has and will be perfectly within both the letter and the spirit of all the T&Cs. We will see how long this lasts.

  39. You glossed over the most obvious business card to supplement Ink. If you have another AMEX business card, “simply” switch over to it to avoid an inquiry. $12K for $600.

  40. @HikerT: I thought the Amex Open (Business) discount is only 5% at OfficeMax? Is it 5% at Office Depot ALSO?

  41. @Plagiarism: You are not giving MMS enough credit. To insinuate that it took a whole 10 mins for MMS to blatently steal that post from FrequentMiler is an insult to MMS’s intelligence. He works much more quickly and efficiently than that. I’m guessing it only took him about 3 mins to cut/paste/edit this whole blog post as he stole it from FM. 😉

  42. Darius, here is another card to add to your table. American Express Simply Cash Business card. It provides 5% cash on all office supply purchases for the first 12,000.00 spent each year in that category. I calculate the net gain on Vanilla Reload to be 4.25% return! No bad for pure cash! No annual fee on this card either!

  43. Quote @MMS: “Yes, Frequent Miler was instrumental in raising awareness of Vanilla Reloads, but there is more to Bluebird than just Vanilla Reloads.”

    Ummmm, don’t kid yourself MMS. The whole Birdhouse is built squarely on Vanilla Reloads. When the Vanilla Reloads die, the Birdhouse comes crashing down along with it. I guess you could still load via ST, but what’s the point since MOs do the same thing.

  44. Great blog – I read your posts daily! I am planning on using my United Explorer card for this deal (I dont have an Ink yet). So, could I go to Office Depot, by a vanilla for $500 + $3.95, load it onto my bluebird and then use my bluebird to pay $500 of my United Explorer Bill? Kind of like a Cycle?

  45. I don’t think Vanilla reloads are going to die. AmEx/Bluebird wants them. Walmart wants them. Vanilla has got to be happy. Amex is happy. Bluebird is happy. Office Depot is happy.

    Who’s not happy? Well, people who don’t live near an Office Depot, for one. Next – eventually, Chase is probably not going to be happy. How do they get happy? First thing they do is stop giving 5X Ultimate Rewards points at Office Depot. So OD is not so happy any more. Or – and this is what I expect will be the end of this – Chase will simply consider Vanilla reloads (which currently ring up at Office Depot as *purchases*) as a cash advance. Problem solved.

    We should start a betting pool. How long will it take for this to happen? I’m guessing: about 6 weeks.

  46. @gregorygrady, you need to spoon feed? 😉 It’s “simply” a cash back card.

  47. Haha Dave, that’s hilarious! Obviously everyone is looking out for themselves, but to suggest only Ink cardholders should buy VRs is beyond the pale. Personally, I’ll be buying about $6k of your precious Office Depot stock with the Chase Marriott card. Probably the lowest card in terms of point value, but the 2 nights credit I’ll earn will getme to Gold sstatus.

  48. It seems the Home Depot in NYC does not carry the Vanilla reload card. Has anyone been able to pick one up in NYC? If so, WHERE?

  49. AMEX SimplyCash looks worthwhile for a cashback card with their 5% at office stores. You can pay the AMEX bill with the bluebird and just spin it around and around if you can find the vanilla reload cards in OD in your area.

  50. @HikerT: Ahhhhh, your reference went over my head, thanks for the spoon feeding though. Everybody needs to be spoonfed once in awhile I guess. 🙂 I thought you were saying simply switch to ANY Amex Business card (hence I figured you were referencing Amex Open Savings). Got it now though, thx.

  51. Super stuff! Every one was mainly concerned only on Ink Bold – BlueBird combo, but this is a great post. I do have a question. Is there any additional points earning capability with the Citi Forward Card in this aspect. I see only 1 point per dollar and that feels like a break even with the vanilla fees and office depot visits.

    • @Nit – I wouldn’t give up so easily and just because one location doesn’t have them, doesn’t mean that other locations don’t have them either.

      @Milezjunkie – Got it! vcb, Jack & Hiker T’s suggestions to use the AMEX Simply Cash card with 5% cash back up to $12K is a good alternative for cash back as well at Office Depot.

      @smitty06 – Thanks for reading!

      @Dave – Not everyone has an Ink card or wants one (shocking, but true!)

      @jomama – You can order Bluebird online and save yourself a trip to Wal-Mart and $5. You also can’t load the Vanilla on the temporary card from Wal-Mart, but can load it on the permanent card which you get in the mail.

      @vcb @HikerT @Jack – Yes, I glossed over it because I don’t focus on cash back, but there is value to be had with this, so I’ll include it. Thanks for the “simple” hint. The fee is around ~$95, but a net gain of ~$500.

      @gregorygrady – Can you please link to where you find “this whole blog post as he stole it from FM” on Frequent Miler?

      – A reader pointed out the United Explorer business card is better because you get 2X points per $1 spent at Office Supply stores. Yes, you can pay off your credit card bill with Bluebird, but I wouldn’t pay off your credit card bill mid-cycle. Just do it like you would normally do it.

      @jomama – I agree that this won’t last forever, but will give it more than 6 weeks.

      @Ken – Office (not Home) Depot sells them, but are out-of-stock in NYC. You may have to go to Jersey…

      @PhatMiles – Thanks! The Citi Forward is 5X at restaurants and entertainment and 1X everywhere else, so not a great value. In fact, it is ~ half the value of the 2% cash back cards.

  52. I am very excited to add this to my book of tricks but I am new to the re-loadable card game. You mention that this can help people get to big spender status by allowing purchases which previously could not be made by CC (eg mortgage and loans) to be indirectly paid for by CC through blue bird.

    Presumably you can also pay your CC bill using the blue bird right? Thus creating a cycle where it only costs $4.95 per $500 re-loadable card to pay off your CC which can assist you in meeting minimum spends or big spender status?

    I hope I am not missing something…

  53. MMS, you also need to factor in roulette risk and other forms of opportunity cost. Using $12K of annual capacity to reap $600 is better than using $20-30K capacity for similar or less payoff. Also, the 20-30K annual spend bonuses are an all or nothing proposition. If any of the moving parts get shut down you you would need to find another way to reach that spend. With Ink or SimplyCash you benefit from every $1 of spend, and aren’t locked in to spending 20-30K to get paid. There is a $12K cap with SimplyCash but I would say that’s a good thing since it’s better to keep a lower profile and/or save capacity for large sign up bonuses.

  54. I must have missed something. I thought I signed up for the Bluebird on line and it would be mailed to me.
    Do I need to purchase the starter kit at Walmart or should I expect to receive a card in the mail for enrolling on line?
    Fortunately, my Office Depot seems to have plenty of Vanilla Reload cards in the back and I was able to buy 6X$500 no problems. Now I just need my BB card so I can load it up!!

  55. There are no office supply stores in my city which sell vanilla refill cards. Any suggestions?

  56. @Mathew, unfortunately like others you’ll have to pick one up in your travels to other towns. In the meantime you can buy Visa or Amex prepaid cards, even at office stores. Those are similar but don’t have the billpay option like BB.

  57. @Rob all I could find at staples and office Max were $200.where do you find $500s?


  58. Hmm I got one at OD. Even the $200 cards have some value despite the $6.95 fee (at least for Ultimate Rewards). Any gift cards (i.e. Amazon, Southwest, restaurants) there that are useful to you are even more valuable, since they don’t have a fee.

  59. Daraius do you think it’s important to occasionally make 1X Ink purchases? And if you buy a VR at OD with Ink do you buy anything else so your total isn’t $503.95 or a multiple thereof?

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  61. I didn’t read through the entire comments section but I wanted to pass this along in case it wasn’t posted.

    I received a flyer in the mail telling me that I would earn 1.5 miles for every dollar I spent after I spent $1000 in October and November. This is for the Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card. I didn’t have to do anything to activate this. They put it on my card. The bonus doesn’t kick in till you are over $1000 each month. This bonus also doesn’t apply to purchases that earn you more than 1 miles to the dollar. In example United purchases.

    If you are unsure if you received this deal, call Chase and ask them if it’s on your account.


    • Mathew – You could try loading with a miles earning debit card at Wal-Mart

      @Rob P – I try to buy paper or filing supplies or something else at Office Depot. And I put my telecommunication charges on the Ink as well as try to use it for some regular purchases.

      @Corridor! – Thanks!

  62. I think the math for the Delta Platinum Amex bonus is slightly flawed:

    This statement is true:

    Earn 10,000 bonus elite miles (counts towards Medallion status) on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $25,000 in a calender year.

    This statement needs to be tweaked:

    This means that you earn 35,000 Delta miles + 10,000 elite miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.

    I believe this is how it should read:

    This means that you earn 25,000 Delta miles + 10,000 elite miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.

    Has anyone hit this bonus before – and would be able to verify? I am close to hitting the bonus, and this is how I’ve interpreted it.

    • @AndyP – The terms for the Delta Platinum say “If in any calendar year Eligible Spending on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is $25,000 or more, the Basic Cardmember will be awarded 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles” I interpret this to mean both bonus and MQM. But please let us know what posts to your account once you hit the bonus.

  63. All the posts about how wonderful Bluebird can be for the points and miles game is moot for most of us who cannot find Vanilla Reload cards anywhere. Every place I have gone to in NY either won’t allow credit card purchases or doesn’t have stock. Very disappointing. Your posts on the topic are nothing more to me than teases like a kid looking through the window of a candy store – alas with no money….

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  65. I know I saw it before but can’t find it now. Which is the best card(s) to use at drug stores (Walgreens) to maximize points when buying vanilla cards?

  66. could have sworn i saw emily’s doppelganger in somerville, ma the other day…

    anyway, love the blog, keep it up!

  67. Daraius:

    My Citi Hilton Reserve card says 1 weekend night after spending $10,000 in a “cardmembership year” and earn diamond status for spending $40,000 in a “calendar year”.

    • @lovin it – If your Walgreen accepts credit card for the Vanilla Reloads, you could use an AMEX Hilton which gets 6X points per $1 spent at drugstores or any card on which you want to complete a minimum spending requirement for.

      @blake – We weren’t there, but thanks for reading!

      @Frank – Good catch – I’ve fixed the post.

  68. Finally today I received my SPG AMEX Cards. But the happiness of receiving it quickly vanished after reading the first line on the supplement card holder agreement. It reads under Eigible Purchases do NOT include: purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of any cash equivalent. This meaning that I can NOT 🙁 :/ :< 😮 :w reload my Blue Bird card with it. Did any of you got this too?

  69. Ok! I’m heading to both places and due a test and see how it goes. Thanks so much for all your help!

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  71. I’m just getting started with this reload strategy. I have the Bluebird now, but I got a “pending” on the Ink application, probably since my business is a real start up. I have an excellent credit score, and I think I can defend my plans when calling reconsideration (and you should wish me well since I used your affiliate link), but I’m not sure what my chances are. Is the better strategy to go ahead and make a Vanilla purchase now with another card, not as valuable, thus not drawing as much attention to the Ink if and when I get it, or to wait and see on the Ink, and potentially earn much more value from my first purchase? I don’t see myself doing this regularly in the future without an Ink (except to help with enrollment bonuses), due to the time and gas it would take.

    • @DaveS – Thanks for using our link! It doesn’t hurt to call the reconsideration department, but be prepared to answer lots of questions like length of business, business plan, revenue projections etc. In my experience, they like business which are established for at least a year, but new businesses need credit as well. On the other hand, you could wait and use the Vanilla Reloads with a regular card to help get the sign-up bonus as well. Good luck!

  72. Why is MMsecrets keep repeating this post? (note, he has posted a similar post before).

    Because if you google bluebird, you’ll see his site at the top of the search.

    He wants people to keep applying Chase Ink cards, so he can continue to receive referral fees at $200 per application.

    This is exactly his MOTIVE.

  73. I thought all citi cards are coded as cash advance when purchasing vanilla gift card. Don’t they?

  74. Is it worth it to use the Citi American Advantage card to buy Vanilla cards? It only gives me 1 mile per dollar spent… Are any of the cards that are a 1:1 ratio worth it?

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  76. confused about whether i can use a Citi card to purchase Vanilla reload at OD or elsewhere. Husband and i have Citibank hiltons to finish minimum spend on as well as $5000 spend on new Amex Delta cc.

  77. What about using citi aadvantage visa or amex at Walgreens? or buying greendot at Ritde aide? Do you have any idea? Thanks

    • @Lynn – They could be worth it for the sign-up bonus or to meet a bonus threshold in the post above.

      @stephanie – Sure you can use the Citibank cards to buy Vanilla Reloads to help complete minimum spending.

      @leslie – It is the same principle. They should be charged as purchases.

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  79. Anyone used their citi aadvantage amex or visa card for getting the vanilla card and then loading bluebird successfully?
    I need to do that for spending.

    Also I can’t find the onevanilla card anywhere – not walgreens or cvs. What a pity and I just signed up for 3 credit cards hoping I can get some help with bluebird for minimum spend).
    Any thoughts – I am in Virginia.

  80. I tried to buy Vanilla Reload cards from Walgreens using Credit card. I told them I have bought this card using CC but they don’t accept credit card for Vanilla Reloads card. Is there any work around for this?


  81. Can the Citi AA Visa or Amex be used to buy the Vanilla Reload cards (eg. CVS/Walgreens)? Will they be coded as cash advance? TIA.

  82. I filed a complaint with the BBB.
    There is no human to speak to at Bluebird. This is against PCI Complaint that you have to be able to speak to a human regarding your account/report lost or stolen.
    Go here for info:

  83. One item that I heard mentioned at the FTULAX is that you cannot use Citi cards to buy the Vanilla Reload cards because you might get charged as cash withdrawal. I see that Citi cards are being used as valid examples (or experiences) in the table above. Has anything changed since? Can we use Citicards (be it HH or AA brands) to buy the Vanilla Reload cards and it will count as purchases?

    Thank you for everything!

  84. Ok….I’m reading about bluebird, is this the simplest way to use my cc,to reach a spend level so I can get bonus points? I feel like I’m not understanding what to do…do I also have to buy a vanilla card to use bluebird,or can I sign up with my cc of choice,then pay my mortgage and car payment using the cc thru Bluebird?

    • @Kalboz – Sorry for missing this, but if you buy the Vanilla Reloads from a store with a Citi card it is coded as a purchase from the store and doesn’t incur cash advance fees.

      @J .M. – You earn points when you use a credit card to buy the Vanilla Reload at a store. So you can use any credit card to buy the Vanilla Reload and then load it on your Bluebird.

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  87. Found a stack of new and wrapped Vanilla Reloads on top of the prepaid stand at my local CVS. I didn’t have a bluebird account, so kind of hesitated to buy one. I went back to my “truck” and logged on to my local Starbuck’s wifi which is located at approximately every two blocks in NYC. opened up the account with bluebird and went back to CVS and purchased one reload with $100.00 to see if it would work with my SPG AMEX card, the self serve pay stand asked for the last 4 of my SPG card and prompted for approval from the staff. The staff guarding the pay stands, did not hesitate to approve it and on i went.
    1. There was no problem purchasing the vanilla reload with the credit card.
    possibly due to the amount purchased. Approval was easy also possibly do to the amount of money purchased.

    The stack came with 10 vanilla reloads, so there are 9 left on the stand. I was tempted to take some more but i might have looked suspicious walking in back and buying more at a higher amount.
    This is the first encounter with vanilla reloads since reading up on it a month a go. I have been occasionally looking for these for that long and its today that finally came up.
    I wonder if people are just taking these home and stashing it once they find it?
    Till next time, i wonder if these will last.

  88. Went to my CVS in Vegas to buy Vanilla card using CC. They won’t accept CC anymore.
    My friend in Newark CA has the same problem. We had no problem 2 weeks ago. Is CVS changing the policy on Vanilla Card purchase using CC.
    Has anyone purchased VC using CC the last few days?

  89. What amount of spending is “too much” spending? I was just approved for both a personal and business Chase SWA card. Any idea how much I can use Bluebird and Vanilla Reloads before some sort of red flag goes off?

  90. Okay I am confused – I get a bluebird account – which is pretty much a checking account. What I want to do is buy this vanilla cc’s for up to 500 per card spread out (I have two AA cards, USair mc and a United visa) if I am understanding – I can – buy these VC cards and use that money to deposit in my bluebird account – then turn around and use that bluebird checking to pay my credit card bills?

    for example I buy a 500 with the USAir MC, for 3,95 fee – deposit that 500 in bluebird and use bluebird to pay my USAir bill?

  91. I have the same question as Glen. Thank you for your answer!

  92. Can’t you just buy 2 x $500 vanilla reloads using Rewards CC, deposit to Bluebird. Then pay back the $1000 + fee and do this up to the $5000 bluebird limit? That will be 5000 miles a month or 60K a year?

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  94. Sarah Touchstone

    What about using Club Carlson? I think I’m getting 5x’s the points on all purchases.

  95. I have the Amex SPG and Gold Premiere. Why would you use a non-bonus card like the Amex Premiere Gold at Office Depot or CVS. At .52 cents per point, isn’t that a lot of work? or even the SPG card you really need to spend $30,000 to achieve Gold Status with SPG. But at 20,000 for 25,000 airline conversion you’re still earning closer to 1% after subtracting out the fees and time consumption. Where is the math not adding up?

    Also, just curious, isn’t a bit suspicious to Amex if you are charging vanilla reloads and putting them on Bluebird?

    Thanks for your help!

  96. I’m completing min spend citi executive aa – vanilla w pin – bluebird -pay bill. I ‘ve cut a deal with a contractor to put a fence for 5k on cash only no check. Any thoughts on how i can use the credit card? Bluebird limit is only 500 per day?

  97. I’m new to this “game”, so bear with me a little… Went to Family Dollar to buy VR with CC and clerk had no problem approving CC for purchase., but then asked me for my card…? I don’t have a VR card, is that what he meant? Or should I have handed him my Bluebird card (which I ordered online but have not transferred and funds to just yet)?
    Thanks for any insight. I’m struggling a bit with this first step, transferring funds to the Bluebird card, because CVS and Walgreens do not accept CC to purchase VR in may area…

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  99. How about purchasing vanilla reloads with chase sapphire proffered?

  100. one letter send u. you got it ????