Vanilla Reloads Slowly Trickling Into CVS & I Bought 2 Vanilla Reloads With a Credit Card!

[Emily & I get a referral for the Citi Hilton Reserve in this post.  We do NOT get a referral for the American Express Hilton credit cards.  We are very grateful to all readers who use our links!]

Buying Vanilla at CVS

Bluebird Introduction

One of the best uses of American Express Bluebird is the ability to pay for transactions which can’t usually be made with a miles or points earning credit card.  This includes transactions such as your rent, mortgage, car payment, credit card bill, tuition, etc.

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.

Here’s a post on other credit cards to use with Bluebird, so that you’re not maxing out on just 1 card.

You may also be able to pay for the Vanilla Reloads with a credit card at Walgreen’s, but this isn’t always the case and could be a bit of wild goose chase.

Here’s a post on what a Vanilla Reload looks like and  how to load a Vanilla Reload card to your Bluebird account.

CVS Vanilla Reload

A few days ago, I wrote that the Vanilla Reload website added new stores to the list of stores which sell Vanilla Reloads.  One of those stores was CVS.

I had checked 8 different CVS stores as soon as American Express Bluebird launched to see if they stocked Vanilla Reload cards.  However, all the CVS stores had empty slots for Vanilla Reloads and the slots weren’t stocked with Vanilla Reload cards.

Perhaps this was a sign of a brighter future?  Million Mile Secrets reader Mark tweeted a picture of the empty racks and wrote #staytuned!

My Experience at CVS

Today, I went to one CVS store in town but didn’t find any Vanilla Reload cards.  I then went to another store with Emily to pick up our prescriptions and to get her flu shot and I saw the Vanilla Reloads towards the bottom of the rack.

I snatched one out and went to the cashier to pay.  I chatted with him and mentioned that I’ve never seen these before at CVS and asked if they were new!  He said that they were new and “that a whole lot of work was done on the gift card rack.”

I then swiped my Hilton American Express card to see if would get 6X points.  The cashier looked at the card and said that you usually have to pay cash for gift cards above $100.  I politely told him that I’ve bought them before with a credit card and asked if I could try swiping my card.  After swiping my card, the system froze for few seconds.

The cashier asked for my card and manually punched some numbers on the screen (I’m guessing the 4 digit security code on the front of the card) and the transaction went through.  I was giddy at my first purchase of Vanilla Reloads at CVS with a credit card!

My First Vanilla From CVS

We then picked up Emily’s prescription and got the flu shot and I thought I’d buy another Vanilla Reload card.  I wanted to see if it was easier to buy the cards from the pharmacy counter instead of the cash registers up at front.

I handed over the Vanilla Reload card and asked for $500 to be loaded.  I swiped my American Express Hilton card, but the transaction was declined.  I tried again, and it was declined.  I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card instead and the transaction went through!

CVS Register Accepted my Credit Cards

So in my limited sample of testing at 1 store, it was possible to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card from 2 different cash registers in the store.

As I was signing for the purchase, I got a call from the American Express fraud department asking if I was making large purchases at CVS.  I confirmed the purchase and when I went home I found an email from the Fraud Protection Alert at American Express as well.

Fraud Protection Email from American Express

I guess I’ll call them back and tell them I’ll be buying lots of Vanilla tonic from CVS in future!

Which Cards to use at CVS & Pharmacies

I’ll write a more detailed post later, but here are a few ideas:

1.   Minimum Spending Requirements.   You can use any credit card at CVS to buy Vanilla Reloads and then use Bluebird to pay bills (even credit card bills!), withdraw money from ATM, and transfer money to others to help complete minimum spending requirements for credit card sign-up bonuses.

2.   American Express Hilton.  The American Express Hilton and the American Express Surpass credit cards both offer 6X Hilton points per $1 spent at pharmacies.  That’s 3,027 Hilton points ($500 Vanilla Reload + $3.95 Fee X 6 Hilton points per $1 spent).  This is worth $18.16 if you value 1 Hilton point at 0.6 cents.

The American Express Hilton Surpass also gets you Diamond Hilton status for spending $40,000 in a calendar year, so you’ll get 240,000 Hilton points and top-tier Diamond status for spending $40,000.

3.  Citi Hilton Reserve. You earn 3 Hilton points per $1 spent anywhere.

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).

4.   Cards with Spending Thresholds.   Some cards like the Citi United Explorer, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, or the American Express Delta Reserve or Platinum give you bonus miles and points for reaching certain spending requirements.  You can buy Vanilla Reloads and use Bluebird to help reach those goals.

5.  Most Other Miles & Points Cards.  Paying a $3.95 fee (the Vanilla Reload fee) to be able to earn 500 miles or points is like paying 0.8 cents for 1 mile or points.  You still come out ahead as long as you value those miles and points at more than 0.8 cents per mile/point.

For example, most folks would pay more than 0.8 cents per point for American Express Starwood points, Chase Ultimate Rewards or for American Express Membership Rewards points.

This means that you can use virtually any miles and points earning card and come out ahead!

Where to Find Vanilla Reload Cards at CVS

You can usually find these cards in the prepaid card section at CVS.  If you don’t want to hunt for the gift card section (they seem to be in different places in different stores), just ask an associate where the gift card section is.

Prepaid Card Center at CVS

The Vanilla Reload cards which you’re after are usually in the “Reloadable Debit” section next to the blue American Express Prepaid cards.

Reloadable Debit Cards

The Vanilla Reload card in the picture below is the white card which says “Prepaid Reload” below the Pay Pal card on the left.  Please see this post for more details on what a Vanilla Reload card looks like because there are lots of other cards with “Vanilla” on them.

Vanilla Reload Card

Bottom Line

Vanilla Reload cards are slowly tricking into CVS stores, but many of them don’t have the cards as yet.  I was able to buy them with a credit card, and hopefully so will you!  I don’t suspect that all CVS stores are stocked with Vanilla Reloads as yet, so try again in a few weeks if you don’t see them there now.

Here’s a post on what a Vanilla Reload looks like and  how to load a Vanilla Reload card to your Bluebird account.

It is nice to have another option to buy Vanilla Reloads to help meet minimum spending requirements and to earn miles and points for paying bills which didn’t earn miles and points – such as rent, mortgage, student loans, etc. –  via Bluebird!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 7,500+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in a RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another Bluebird update!

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

170 Responses to Vanilla Reloads Slowly Trickling Into CVS & I Bought 2 Vanilla Reloads With a Credit Card!

  1. Pingback: Can You Use a Gift Card to Buy Vanilla Reload Cards? | Free Travel Central – tips for free travel hacks, airline miles and hotel points

  2. Darius – OD in S Cal has stopped carrying VR cards. CVS has empty spaces on rack, will charge 5.95 apparently when they come in (possibly avail this Thurs am at 3 CVS near me.) Today found them in a Walgreen (2 others didn’t have them) Mgr said could only buy one per day but relented and I bought 2. He knew what I was doing and applauded it. No problem, used SPG card for one and Sapphire for other. However, at 1 point/$ makes no sense. I charge $1008 and immediately use Bluebird to pay back the cards I used. Can’t get ahead enough to pay mortgage or ginormous electric bills.

  3. I bought visa and American express gift cards at Office Depot in San Antonio, TX with my chase ink bold card without any problems. However, I can’t find a store (OD, CVS, Walgreen’s) that will sell me a vanilla reload card payable with those gift cards. “You can’t buy a gift card with a gift card”. “Cash is the only accepted tender”. are the answers I am getting. I know Visa has reloadable debit cards that are pre-paid. Would those be an acceptable form of payment?
    Has anybody been able to use a gift card to buy the vanilla reload card?

  4. @judy zamos – It could make sense to help complete minimum spending requirements, but hopefully you’ll be able to get them from CVS soon.

    @Timmer1001- See this post for more details.

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  6. Successfully purchased two Vanilla reloads today at two different Walgreens locations! Tried my Amex Platinum 2 times, and it just kept asking me to swipe again. I thought I was out of luck when the cashier said the computer was telling her cash only. I quickly swiped my Chase UA Visa and it worked! Went to another Walgreens and had the same outcome! Thanks Darius, for all you do!

  7. @Matt – Glad it worked out!

  8. DD,
    Have you tried yet to pay a non Amex cc bill yet with a Bluebird check? Was wondering if you or anyone else had taken the plunge and confirmed that was safe to do aka (buy a Vanilla card with a Chase BA Visa, then pay that BA Chase Visa monthly credit card bill with a Bluebird check from the Vanilla you bought with the Chase BA Visa.)…and then one step further, has anyone tried to pay their AMEX credit card bill with a Bluebird check?

    Thanks!

  9. I’m following up on my earlier post about trying to purchase VR cards in New York City. I went to a CVS in Rego Park and they had a sign for $100 credit card limit for all gift cards. The manager at the Walgreens in Forest Hills said cash only when I tried to purchase VR card with credit card. The CVS in Maspeth had a sign for $75 credit card limit for all gift cards. I’ll keep looking and haven’t given up hope but it doesn’t look good.

  10. @Jerry – I’ve paid Chase using the Bill Pay service and the payment posted electronically. You could do the same with AMEX too.

    @Fred – I’ve heard folks have better luck outside the city or in NJ.

  11. Does anyone have screen shots saved for the Citi Hilton Reserve with the 30,000 bonus point after $10,000 offer? Citi is denying they ever had that offer available.

  12. @Gkrebs23 – The Hilton Reserve never offered points, only 2 free night certificates after the minimum spending.

  13. Daraius and @Jerry I have tried to use the Bill Pay Service to pay my Sapphire w/ Bluebird and Chase Returned the amount I paid w/ no fees. Just marked returned/reversal on my Chase account and the amount was returned to my Bluebird. I have put money on the Bluebird via SPG and Hilton Surpass only. What do you think is going on?

  14. Michael Belisle

    I saw some vanilla reloads last weekend at TA market in buttonwillow, california. Went to purchase and was told cash only.

  15. @Mike – I really don’t know!

    @Michael Belisle
    – That’s too bad!

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  17. New York City is starting to get really vexing. Has MMS or anyone else heard of places where the vanillas are available?

  18. I bought a Vanilla reload pack on Christmas Eve for $500. When I attempted to loan the funds onto my Bluebird card I kept receiving an error message said the card was deactivated. I didnt know if that meant MY card or the Vanilla reload card. I attempted several times. I returned to the store and was told there is now a 24 hour waiting period to loan funds onto your card from Vanilla reload packs. The next day, I was able to load the funds successfully. A 24 hour waiting period is unacceptable. I will load at Wal-Mart from now on.

  19. I bought two VR yesterday at Walgreens and loaded them an hour later. I have never had to wait unless I have already loaded $1000 in one day or $5000 in a month.

  20. Pingback: Emily's December Churn | Million Mile Secrets

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  22. I just bought 3 VR cards today at CVS using my Amex and Chase CC without any issues. In fact, they had quite a few VR cards left..(CVS in Los Angeles County) I’m still waiting to get my Bluebird card in mail though.

  23. @Jeff – Unfortunately, I don’t know of places in NYC to get the cards.

    @william @Rachel - There hasn’t been a waiting period for me, but I have heard of it happening to other folks.

    @kam - Very nice!

  24. I have been having my monthly expenses paid via electronic payments using the Bluebird card. Is there a way to have the money deposited into a bank account other than withdrawing it from an ATM and redepositing it?

  25. @Linda - You can transfer money from your Bluebird to your bank account directly!

  26. through the Bluebird website itself? I looked around the site but couldn’t find a way to do it?

  27. thanks so much…just linked up my bank account :)

  28. Just bought two VR cards at my local CVS store in NC using my Citi AA visa and my chase freedom, hope the freedom will give me 5X thank you points for this. (Jan through Mar for pharmacy purchase). Still waiting for my bluebird card though.
    Thanks for all these info!

  29. Darius – have you already received your Hilton points for the VR cards you bought at CVS? I just wanted to see if you or others were able to confirm if it’s really 6X Hilton points per $1 spent? Because I think the Amex card terms indicate that “prepaid cards” are excluded from getting points but I don’t know if there’s a way for Amex to really track that the purchase is indeed related to VR?

  30. @km – Yes, I’ve received the points, but the Hilton card will no longer offer 6x points at drugstores in May. You do currently get points for the purchase since it is coded as appearing from the stores.

  31. My latest Hilton AMEX bill 2/14/2013 removed the drugstore 6 points per dollar. This deal is dead for me.

  32. I believe my citi hilton card is still 3 points per dollar though.

  33. @KT – It changes in May unfortunately.

  34. Have you tried to buy a Vanilla Reload with a business card recently? I am seeing reports of business cards not going through and I am desperate to use one on a trip to Florida we are taking in a few days.

  35. @heather- It worked for us a few weeks ago, and I haven’t heard otherwise from readers.

  36. From yesterday to today, i went to 31 CVS, 28 did not stock them and the 3 said CASH ONLY. In SF, Bay Area.

  37. I was able to purchase $1000 worth of Vanilla Reloads at a CVS here in VA with my Southwest Rewards card on April 2nd. Apparently, some of the small town CVS stores are still allowing credit card purchases. All I had to do was show the cashier my card for the last 4 digits, no questions asked.

  38. Pingback: Gift Card PIN Number | Million Mile Secrets

  39. is there any credit card currently giving more than 1 point for drugstore purchases?

  40. @Derrick – That’s how it works for me too.

    @alex - Post coming soon!

  41. The Vanilla Reload cards are readily available at CVS stores around Columbus, Ohio. I’ve purchased them from two different stores using a credit card. One cashier asked me for ID, but that’s the biggest inconvenience I have experienced.

  42. CVS in NJ – V reloads REMOVED from shelves.
    According to clerk someone was buying “thousands of dollars worth, it is some sort of scam”. “Cops came to investigate yesterday.”

    SOME Greedy miler, i’m sure, couldn’t buy just 1 at a time with a few sodas or something. What a Jackass……..Thanks for Smashing the Golden egg.

  43. @CatLover – I’ve noticed that they are more readily available in smaller towns and in the Midwest.

    @e – Why did they sell thousands of dollars worth? They normally are pretty good about restricting you to $1K at a time.

  44. Confirmed today in the Nashville area, that all CVS’ now have the MyOne Vanilla card, a competition with the Amex Prepaid card, per a customer support rep conversation today. Also, Dollar General and Family Dollar say you can reload with Vanilla cards, but they require cards with 16 digits, so no BlueBird reloads or Amex at all. I did confirm that Walgreens still does sell the VR cards, but it is cash only indeed. Hope this helps others.

  45. I am way late to this game but I have seen VR cards at many CVS stores and a few Walgreens in the Philly suburbs. I made my first purchase today of 2 x $500 with an AMEX Business Open credit card. They asked for ID as well as a phone number. They said that they always ask for ID for any gift cards over $200. When I asked why, she said there has been a lot of fraud (wouldn’t that be the credit card company’s problem not CVS?!?) She did also say that a lot of seniors are being swindled (i.e., being asked by “lawyers” to buy a $200 gift card in return for a $1,000.)

    I am still trying to figure out if this is worth the effort (and cost of fees) for 1X points. Seems to be mixed opinions here. Does anyone have a list of cards with spending thresholds so I can see if it is worth it. I have Starwood AMEX, Chase Sapphire, Amex Business Open, USAirways Barclay Mastercard. Thanks!

  46. Sorry. Just found the comment above with the very helpful link to credit card spend thresholds. Thanks!

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  49. Every CVS that I have been to in Atlanta no longer is carrying the Vanilla Reload cards. There were only a few that allowed me to purchase them with a CC but now I can’t even find them. A clerk told me that they were told to pull them from the racks. Oh well.

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  53. what happens if 2 household members mixed the cards when reloading? just once ever.

  54. @David – It shouldn’t matter if you use your Vanilla Reload card to load your wife’s card and vice versa.

  55. Thank you

  56. Got denied at 3 CVS’s today trying buy VR with CC. Was told cash only since january 1st, anyone else getting this? Im in Norfolk area.

  57. How well does this work in 2014 in Utah with Vanilla Reload Network cards and BlueBird? I’m wanting to also know anyone’s experience with using BlueBird’s BillPay to pay a Well’s Fargo mortgage payment.

    @MillionMileSecrets care to comment or help in any way? Anything you can add or say would be greatly appreciated! Definitely a fan of your website and blog. Very, very good and helpful articles and giveaways. Keep up the excellent work. I’m going to spend the next few weeks “devouring” this content!

  58. Purchased $500 Vanilla Reload on 1/18
    When I tried to load I received the following error message, “The card is SUSPENDED. Error Code: 4005″

    1st call to customer service they said wait 24 hours.
    2nd call they said send pictures of card and receipt.
    3rd call they said it can take upto 3 business days.
    4th call they said next Monday.
    5th call (on Tuesday, 1/28) they said it can take up to 7 business days, when I mentioned it was past 7 business days, they said they would nudge their compliance department.

    Has anyone else had problems with Vanilla Reload cards? How long did it take to resolve?

  59. I traveled to Albuquerque in mid January. I stopped at multiple CVS. No VR cards available. :(

  60. @Zach Smith – I don’t have experience with Wells Fargo mortgage’s so can’t comment specifically. You can check to see if they are listed in Bill Pay before buying the reloads. I have to imagine that they are listed!

    @Kira – That would have ruined my trip!

  61. @Million Mile Secrets

    Thanks for the quick reply! Now, for Vanilla Reloads, where should I buy so I can use a credit card?

  62. @Zach Smith – CVS is usually the best place to buy them with a credit card.

  63. I ran into the same issue with Jason Carlin
    Error code 4005 with card suspended
    vanilla told me that cvs had deactivated my cards after I left store with receipts stated activated
    my credit card already got charged.
    I just filed cc dispute
    Jason. can you provide any update of your case?

  64. Some of the local CVS around me in Houston have denied me Vanilla Reloads via credit card… In fact 3 days ago I bought a few on my Credit Card then today went back to the same location and was told cash only… He mentioned that corporate told CVS employees to only accept cash for Vanilla reloads, i guess you need to get an employee who really doesn’t care… Anyone else in Houston having issues?

  65. I’m totally confused on the Vanilla Reloads. How can I purchase enough of them to obtain points for southwest companion pass? I’ve looked all over and unfortunately, no site has given any explanation on how this works – or at least an explanation that I can understand.

  66. @Errin – You buy the Vanilla Reload with a credit card and earn points for buying them with a credit car. You then load your Bluebird account with the Vanilla Reload and pay your bills etc.

  67. Pingback: No More Vanilla Reloads With a Credit Card at CVS From March 31, 2014 | Million Mile Secrets

  68. it is now CASH ONLY for all reloadable gift cards at cvs

  69. Pingback: CVS Vanilla Reload Update: ALL Stores Going Cash Only By April 4, 2014 | Million Mile Secrets

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