Vanilla Reloads Removed From Office Depot & Other Alternatives to Load Your Bluebird Card

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Thanks to everyone who emailed and commented about their experience buying Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot.

Unfortunately, many Office Depots removed the Vanilla Reload cards & stopped selling Vanilla Reload cards yesterday.  We’re not sure about the exact reasons, but readers report being told that Office Depot was concerned about fraudulent purchases.  However, a small percentage of readers still found them at Office Depot, but I wouldn’t expect this to last much longer.  But there are still ways to take advantage of American Express Bluebird.

I suspect a larger reason is because lots of folks were buying Vanilla Reload cards with a Chase Ink credit card to earn 5X points.  Frequent Miler wrote about this in May, but I never wrote about it in detail (I may have mentioned it in passing) until American Express Bluebird arrived in October.

American Express Bluebird

Bluebird was a great way to earn miles and points for purchases which don’t usually earn miles and points such as rent, mortgages, car loans, credit card bills etc.  This was huge, and I certainly wanted Million Mile Secrets readers to know about this opportunity!  This was BIG!

In the internet age, it is unlikely that this opportunity would last long and not writing it on my blog when it was on all the other blogs, financial blogs, Slick Deals, Fat Wallet & Flyer Talk wasn’t going to prolong the length of the deal.

If something is too good to be true – and earning 5X Ultimate Rewards points for paying bills fits the category – it is unlikely to last long.  So congrats to folks who saw the potential and acted quickly while it lasted!

However, you can still earn 3.5X Ultimate Rewards points per $1 with one extra step.

Bluebird is Not Dead…Yet

Sure, you can’t buy Vanilla Reloads directly with a Chase Ink credit and earn 5X Ultimate Rewards Points or 5% cash back, but there still are a lot of other options.

Here are a few options to load American Express Bluebird with a credit card which I’ve either written about before or will write about in more detail soon.  I do NOT expect all these methods to last indefinitely, but that’s life in the internet age!

1.   CVS or Walgreen’s.   CVS is rolling out Vanilla Reload cards through their stores and you can buy them with a credit card!  Your store may not have them currently, but they will have it soon.  I wrote about our experience buying Vanilla Reload cards at CVS in this post, and  I just bought 2 more last night without any issues.

As I explained in this post, you can use this to meet a minimum spending requirement on ANY credit card, with the American Express or Citi Hilton cards for 6X or 3X Hilton points, to meet spending bonus requirements on other cards, or to earn points to pay bills via American Express Bluebird.

Being able to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card from CVS means that you can plough through minimum spending requirements on credit cards very easily.

Some Walgreen’s will also sell you a Vanilla Reload card with a credit card, but this is very variable and could be a wild goose chase for some.

 2.   Office Depot & CVS /Walgreen’s/Other Locations.   Sure, you may not be able to buy Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot anymore.  But you STILL can buy a $500 regular Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift card with a Chase Ink credit card at Office Depot and earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points or 5% cash back.  You will pay ~$4.95 as a purchase fee for the gift card, but will earn ~2,525 Ultimate Rewards points for the $500 gift card purchase +~$4.95 gift card activation fee.

You can then use that gift card (which you bought at Office Depot and earned you 5X Ultimate Rewards points) to buy a Vanilla Reload card at CVS, Walgreen’s or any other place which sells Vanilla Reloads.

For example, if you bought a $500 gift card at Office Depot with your Chase Ink card, you can use that card to buy a Vanilla Reload card for $496.05 at any other location which sells them with a credit card.

Why $496.05?  Because your gift card (which you purchased with a Chase Ink Bold at Office Depot) has only $500 in it and you have to account for the $3.95 Vanilla Reload purchase fee.  $500 Gift Card Value = $496.05 Vanilla Reload + $3.95 Vanilla Reload fee.

Yes, there is an extra step involved and an additional  $4.95 fee, but you are earning ~2,525 Ultimate Rewards points for a $8.90 fee ($4.95 gift card fee + $3.95 Vanilla Reload fee).  But that’s still 3.5 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent!

3.   Wells Fargo Debit Card.  The blog migration let slip a mostly incomplete draft post (since deleted) into the Million Mile Secrets RSS feed which suggested that you can use the Wells Fargo Prepaid card to load a Bluebird card.

Essentially, you load your Wells Fargo prepaid debit card with a credit card (do NOT use a Citi card because you will be charged a cash advance fee!) and then go to Wal-Mart and load your Bluebird card with the Wells Fargo prepaid card.  This is still a viable way to earn points for paying bills such as mortgages, rent etc. with a credit card!  Or to meet a minimum spending requirement.  I’ll write more about this later.

4.   Debit Cards.  You can always load your Bluebird card with a points earning debit card at Wal-Mart.  I earned miles for loading my Bluebird card with 3 miles earning cards – the Suntrust Delta debit card, the Bank of America Alaska Air debit card, and the UFB Bank Airlines Rewards Checking account which earns American Airlines miles.

I earned 1 mile per $1 with the Delta debit card and 0.5 miles per $1 with the Alaska Air and American Airlines cards.  You can load up to $1,000 per day  & $5,000 per month at Wal-Mart, for free, with a debit card.

This lets you earn miles and points for paying rent, mortgages, and credit card bills – activities which usually didn’t earn miles and points before Bluebird.

5.   Other Locations.   I wrote earlier that Vanilla reloads are available at a lot of other places.  Some of these places may accept credit cards to purchase Vanilla Reloads.  Readers have reported success at CVS, Valero, Save Mart, & some Walgreen’s.

 Bluebird-LIKE Activity

Banks are pushing prepaid cards to make up for legislation which slashed profits from their credit card divisions.  There are many new prepaid cards on the market, and some are very much like Bluebird in that you may be able to load them with a credit card.

So experiment for yourself with the other options.  I’ll share my experiments too!  Together we can figure out more ways to earn miles and points.

For Fun

Million Mile Secrets reader webazoid left a comment with a link to a funny YouTube video made by Points to Point B.  The video is based on the parody Downfall series of videos

I don’t agree with everything in the video – particularly the part about spoon-feeding the masses -  but the video sure is funny!  Life would be dull without contrary viewpoints.  If you’re new to miles and points many of the references in the video may not make sense…yet.

Bottom Line

Deals come and deals go.  The ability to buy Vanilla Reloads for 5X points with an Ink credit card may have closed, but there always will be new opportunities.  I’m glad many of us got to partake while it lasted.

We can either complain and moan and try to assign blame (answer = the internet, & this blog is a tiny part of the internet) or move on to the next opportunity.  I’m moving on to newer opportunities!

But loss aversion is a powerful motivator, so I’m sure the comments will be fun to read, though not all comments will be coherent or logical!  But one can hope otherwise.

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!

159 Responses to Vanilla Reloads Removed From Office Depot & Other Alternatives to Load Your Bluebird Card

  1. I appreciate you and your blog. You’ve helped me secure hundreds of thousands of points to use for my families travel. Yours was the first miles and points blog I started reading, you got me in the game. I’m thankful that you provide this information to me. Others complaining you share info they want to keep secret, so that they can hoard more points for themselves reveal their own selfishness.

    I’m also glad you let us in on what others have discovered, whether it’s FT or another blog. I don’t have time to read every miles and points blog out there. I read three regularly, and two more occasionally. So, some amount of overlap benefits me. No one gets mad at USA Today for covering a story that the New York Times broke. And by the way, both newspapers make money off sharing the information. I think you should stop wasting time responding to critics that you’re never going to win over and keep doing what you do best–helping those of us who appreciate you. Thanks for what you do.

  2. nobody is suppose to know & supply all the info for you, they only tell you what worked for them. its perfectly ok for you to drive to 5 ODs/CVS & find nothing works, wasting time & energy. you just need to feedback here & share your experience. MMS is not under any obligation that all his findings will work for everyone. we need people sharing info, not following the beacon like that guy who sued google for walking across a street & got hit because the map/navigation did not say look around for traffic condition.

  3. I’ve learned a lot from the blogs. I’ve learned even more from Flyertalk.

    Simply put, the source of the discontent is that most bloggers use the collective wisdom of the community for individual gain.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but can’t I still use a chase ink at Office depot on $500 visa gift cards and earn 5x points? Then use that card on Amazon payments to meet minimum spending requirements?

  5. So can we buy a regular debit card ($500 each) and load directly to bluebird?

  6. @tai yes but you are quite restricted with amazon payments. You can also potentially use that card to pay for another card to pay other bills (mortgage, etc) or to pay online transactions that don’t have any affiliate bonus. Also, you can do it to protect your identity so that no website has your real cc’s.

  7. @Andy - You can’t load a prepaid debit card on Bluebird, but you can load a regular debit card with a PIN onto Bluebird.

    @onecoolrt – In my experience it counted as a purchase with Chase, but as a cash advance with Citi. I didn’t earn points from Bank of America.

  8. @MMS – Is there any fun to be had here with PayPal or Green Dot cards at CVS? Have you and Emily had any success in buying those with credit cards?

  9. UruineditForus

    Great going spoon feeding and ruining it for the rest of us. You plagiarize from FM and blast it out like ur own material. Never coming to your blog again and going to try my best people avoid this place in flyertalk.

  10. Have you tried buying beans with a Citi card at CVS? Charged as purchase or cash advance? Any issues? Thanks

  11. you saved a lot of people a lot of time, does not matter which blogger gets the idea 1st. you guys probably talked & exchanged ideas all the time. what i know is i learned & benefited from your blog. no need to worry about the whiners, chances are they were using the technique outlined here (doesn’t matter where it originated) , happily reaping the fruits and said nothing until now. where were they before? useless. ..
    keep up the good work.

  12. One OD by me requires manager approval on all prepaid gift (debit) cards now. The manager had to call in on just one card. I don’t know why anyone would pay cash for a prepaid card unless they can’t get credit.

  13. @redcat255 - I’ve tried those, but not as much fun as Bluebird. I’ll post a short summary soon.

    @Member1 - I’ve used a Citi card to buy them at CVS, but the statement hasn’t closed as yet. I expect it to be a purchase and not a cash advance.

    @keepitup - Thanks!

    @JonCski – Very strange. I’ll see if the policy has changed at my Office Depot.

  14. Is it possible to just charge $5K to a timewarnercable internet account through their online payment feature, and then have them mail out a check for a refund. It would be possible to use an Ink card since it gives you 5x points. Not sure if it is legal though…

  15. @Dan – Maybe in theory. The same could work with AT&T. But, like many things that work in theory, I highly doubt this will work in practice.

    I once overpaid my AT&T bill by $500 to meet a minimum spend requirement, but my bill is about $150/month, so the overpayment was eaten up in a few months. You could *maybe * prepay the $5,000 and use it up over years, but I think you’re gonna raise some red flags when you call for a refund on that, if it even goes through in the first place.

  16. @ Jagger – I only minored in Economics, not majored, so maybe you can help me gather metrics ;). Sure, someone else might have been #1 on Google, but the fact of the matter was it made it so easy for someone who has absolutely no interest in the game to understand. You can believe me or not, but the workers at one of my local ODs actually mentioned this site and how they found out so easily about it.

    I still think MMS is a great blogger — hell, a few of these deals have been tipped by me! All I’m asking is to dial back calling out loopholes so blatantly. A little less BRIGHT ARROW CIRCLE LOOK HERE, a little more *nudge nudge wink wink*

    And FT seems a fine place to me.

  17. @AK – Let’s chat at FTU. Don’t think Chase didn’t know about this – they monitor spending trends closely.

  18. Let’s. After all, you’ve already pre-bought me a cup of coffee!

  19. @AK…. the Hitler video is hilarious ….LOL

  20. Just tried a $500 vanilla load @ Walgreens – the cashier said you can only load via cash, my cc wouldn’t work. Then went to CVS and got $1000 with my AmEx Business card.

  21. Michael Belisle

    I was able to use my amex hilton credit card at walgreens. no problem there

  22. I tried to buy a Vanilla Reload at Walgreen’s for the first time on Monday. I was told by the cashier that I needed to pay in cash and so I left. I went into an Office Depot yesterday and was told that they just took them off the shelves. Finally, I went into a CVS just now and was able to buy my first Vanilla Reload! I used my SPG amex and had no problem loading it to my Bluebird. I’m excited, thanks for the tips.

  23. @AK – Looking forward to it. Emily just watched the video and was laughing so loudly that I hear her in the study. I’m worried that years of reading my blog posts has “converted” her!

    @Craig @Michael Belisle @AMC – Glad it worked out!

  24. Pingback: Pre-Paid Card Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  25. Tried your plan by using Ink card to buy Visa gift card at OD, then using it to pay for Vanilla Reload at CVS. CVS will take credit cards, but not a gift card for purchase of “another gift card”, which is how it views VRs.

  26. Continuing..
    CVS explained that company policy requires photo ID to back up a credit card for purchasing loadable cards. Gift cards have no name on them, therefore they are not acceptable.

    My experience is that Walgreens takes cash only, and neither of the 2 Valero stations I tried had the VRs.

  27. @Gene Karl – Thanks for the heads-up. I will try it out tomorrow.

  28. I just tried the “two step” method. I bought a Amex gift card at OD for $500 then went to CVS and tried to buy a Vanilla for $496. When I scanned the Amex card it said “Alternate form of payment required”. I switched back to my Chase card and it went through. Doesn’t seem like the gift card can be used to purchase the Vanilla.

  29. @Josh did you have them process it as a credit or debit card? Also, it can take up to an hour to be ready to use.

  30. @JonCski, I ran it as credit (you select it yourself on the terminal). I verified that the card had the balance on it on Amex’s website before I went into CVS.

  31. @Josh @JonCski - Some folks are reporting that you can’t use a gift card at CVS to buy a prepaid card, but it seems to vary by store, so ymmv.

  32. Daraius, I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding, but doesn’t option 2 provide 5x points per dollar, not 3.5? I don’t understand the math here

  33. Darius, is it being “cancelled/replaced”? What’s this?: https://bluebirdmoney.com/

  34. @Derek - You do earn 5X points for buying the gift card with the Ink at an office supply store, but once you account for the gift card fee and Vanilla Reload fee, the net earning is 3.5 points per $1 spent.

    @Jeff – That’s for the old test-market Bluebirds. The new ones aren’t going anywhere yet.

  35. Tried 3 CVS stores. Same story. They won’t let one reloadable card buy another. Can anyone say they used a gift cards to buy a VanReload at CVS?

  36. I have the same question as Derek. Can you explain the reasoning behind your 3.5 points per $1 spent for option 2? $8.9 in fees to earn ~2525 points seems like a much better rate of return than 3.5 points per $1.

  37. @Aaron - Paying $8.9 to earn 2,525 points means that I’m earning 3.5 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent ($8.9 in fees/2,525 Ultimate Rewards Points)

  38. Maybe I missed this in the flurry of Bluebird comments, but Wal-Mart does not allow loading from Visa Debit gift cards. Despite the fact that they are labelled “debit” they wouldn’t let me use it since it’s processed as credit. Maybe such cards can be used to buy a Vanilla Reload though.

  39. @Nun – That is correct. You can’t use them to load at Wal-Mart.

  40. Oh my God! that has to be the funniest video I’ve ever seen. True, you have to understand the credit card app biz to appreciate it but still, great writing. Woke my kids up from a dead sleep because of my laughter.. Thanks for the vid.
    Daraius and Emily, I check out your site daily and have used the affiliate links multiple times. I got pretty savvy about credit cards promotions about a year ago, found your site and found a great deal more inspiration. I also like your trip reports. Who else does that on their credit card info sites. I think not!

    For those who think this is all a bunch of hooey, it’s not. Me, my wife and 2 kids are going to Hawaii for 17 days in June 2013, 80% of which will be comped because of credit card promotions, airlines and hotels. We’ll cover the rental car costs but I’m still trying to figure a way around that too. Daraius, if you want the details, I’ll happily provide it. It involves using the promos on 4 credit cards, Hyatt, Fairmont, Hawaiian Air, and British Airways. Retail about 10k. Will end up paying about 2k, maybe less. Thanks for your blog. Keep it up and best to you, your ventures and your family.

  41. @Kent C – Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing and safe travels!

  42. Daraius, fantastic website and info, signed up through your links a few times. Quick question: Does the wells fargo debit card work well? Should I use it to meet a chase spending minimum?

    Thank you!
    Traveler01

  43. hi daraius, i just stopped by 2 riteaids in NY that do not even have the vanilla reload cards out. then stopped by 2 walgreens as well which did but do not accept payments for ANY gift cards or such cards over $100. i stopped by 1 cvs as well and they said the same thing!

  44. Just tried to buy vanilla reload at Walgreens, their system came up with a note that it can be purchased with cash only. Any thoughts??

  45. I’m not understanding the point in buying Vanilla reloads! Why not just buy Amex prepaid cards at Office Depot and get 5X points per $ in Chase Ultimate Rewards? If you want to max the points, that is the way to do it. You can’t get 5x at CVS or Walgrens…

  46. @Traveler01 - Thanks for reading. The Wells Fargo debit card works as well with Chase cards, but I wouldn’t use it with a Citi card because they could charge cash advance fees. Either way, I’d do a test purchase first to make sure you aren’t charged cash advance fees.

    @sasha @Adam – Not all CVS and Walgreen’s will sell them with a credit card so you may have to try different stores.

    @Dr. J
    – You’re right that buying gift cards at Office Depot with the Ink is the best way to do it, but you can’t pay bills with them like you can with the Vanilla Reload cards and Bluebird.

  47. Hi,

    I confirmed again today. I went to my local office depot to buy some other gift cards. And saw a banner standing there, which says “American Express prepaid cards can been loaded with Vanilla Reload cards”. Right below the banner, I saw a few Vanilla Reload cards, which are the same as what I purchased in CVS.

    I picked up two and went to the cashier, but the system did not work. The casher scannned the bar code of the card and I saw there was a new popup window on the screen. Eventually, the manager come and refuse me by saying “this can only be purchased with Cash or Debit”. However, I suspect that it is because the computer system of office depot has removed the vanilla cards and the checkout process is not successful and nobody in the store knows why.

  48. Hi Daraius, wish you a Happy New Year! Thanks for all your service thru your blog in 2012!

    I purchased a Vanilla reload card using a credit card at a Walgreens store before the holidays. That store was out of the Vanilla cards and I tried two other Walgreen stores today. In both of them, the checkout register popped up a message that only cash can be used to purchase the Vanilla reload card.

    Is it possible that Walgreens implemented this as of Jan 1st? Or, should I try the first store later to see if their register will accept credit card payment? Thanks.

  49. @Yi – I suspect it is because Office Depot isn’t supposed to still sell Vanilla Reloads. I’ll at my local store and let you know.

    @Jay - Happy New Year to you too! Walgreen’s is very variable and some stores require cash and others don’t. One store in my town will accept credit cards, but the other requires cash.

  50. Love your site, recently registered for daily emails. thanks for all the great information.

    quick question about getting started with bluebird: does one need to actually start the bluebird (even if you order it online direct) with a prepayment at walmart, or can you simply begin to load your bluebird by purchasing vanilla reloads at CVS (not sure if this is only a reload option after the initial load has been made…)Thanks for your help!

  51. @milesdavis – You can just load it directly with Vanilla Reloads. No need to go to Wal-Mart if you don’t want to.

  52. I continue to max out my $5K Bluebird monthly limit with VR at Walgreens by purchasing with 5X HHonors cards. Life is good. Quit whining haters.

  53. I visited a Walgreens where I normally purchased VR cards, and today was denied with the “CASH ONLY” promt. So I then had some time to kill, visited 7 other different stores all a no-go.

    The CVS locally where I purchased my VR cards was out of stock. Once again on my same route, visited 3 other CVS locations all were out of stock. One manager even mentioned to me that they are being removed from the local stores (Southwest TN) due to “fraud issues.” Hmmmmmmmmmmm…. I think its over unfortunately.

  54. Did you say Citi codes paypal and amazon transfers as a cash advance?
    Thanks
    Vicki

  55. @Vicki – Citi is notorious for coding some transactions as cash advances, so it is best to do a small for yourself to see.

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  58. this is not a recent post so i want to get some clarity..i just qualified for the ink bold and am a bit nervous about meeting the min. spend…
    could I still get visa prepaid cards at Office Depot and then use that to buy vanilla reloads at CVS?
    do the prepaid visa cards have to be purchased with cash now at Office Depot?
    i would then load the vanilla reloads onto Blue bird….
    with the changing scene on this i just wanted to get a current answer. thanks!

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