Can You Use a Gift Card to Buy Vanilla Reload Cards?

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A few weeks ago I wrote that CVS was starting to sell Vanilla Reload cards.  I later wrote that you could still earn 3.5 Ultimate Rewards points by (step 1) buying a gift card using a Chase Ink card at Office Depot and then (step 2) using that gift card to buy a Vanilla Reload card at CVS, some Walgreen’s stores, or other locations which sell Vanilla Reload cards.

I wrote:

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 ~2,525Ultimate 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!

However, it turns out that not all CVS stores will accept gift cards to buy Vanilla Reload cards.  Some readers have commented and e-mailed that some CVS stores require you to show ID which matches the credit card you use to make a purchase.

However, gift card do not have your name printed on them so some CVS stores have not been accepting them – especially when used to buy Vanilla Reload cards.

This varies by store, but I thought I’d pass it along.

Bottom Line

It is best to buy a gift card for a small amount at first (as a test) and see if your local CVS accepts it to buy Vanilla Reloads or other prepaid card reloads, before spending lots of money buying gift cards which your local CVS won’t accept.

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103 responses to “Can You Use a Gift Card to Buy Vanilla Reload Cards?

  1. How did you come up with 3.5 miles/$ spent? 2525 miles earned after spending 508.90(500 + 4.95 + 3.95) comes out to 4.96..


  2. to me its more like 2525/8.9=283 miles per $

  3. Wanted to let you know that I was able to buy VR at CVS using my credit card – could only do $1000 transaction at one time so ended up doing two transactions. Never asked for ID.

  4. D,

    I feel like your advice is kinda bad. At my CVS, the only reason they asked for ID was because of how big the purchase was. So if people are buying a small amount of VR, then maybe they won’t get asked for an ID, but when they go for the big $500, they might get stuck! That’s my concern.

  5. You should be able to show your ID and another credit card and explain that you got this card as a gift and need to redeem it for a card that let’s you purchase things only.
    5 x $504.95 = 2,525 / $508.90 = 4.96 points per cent or 496 points per dollar.

  6. If credit cards were not accepted at CVS, try to use a gift card?

  7. My MasterCard gift card (the one I bought many of at Staples yesterday to get the $15 Staples gc rebate per $100 with my Ink Bold) was turned down for use at CVS and Walgreens. Walgreens was cash only, CVS said I couldn’t use a gift card to buy a gift card. I debated and lost. It was the only of 5 area CVS that had VR in Baltimore area however. I’m going to try two others today today however. I want to put these MasterCard GCs on my BB to pay das auto. Otherwise ill to amazon with them. Whatever.

  8. BTW your mobile version is the cat’s pajamas. Almost app like. Good work!

  9. I have found *one* Walgreens in the area that will sell me Vanilla reloads for a credit card, but they too want to see ID. Which isn’t, actually, unreasonable. What I have successfully done is walk in with two $500 gift cards, and bought 3 Vanilla reloads for $496, joking about how I’m not paying the fee for a gift. I put the first one on my United Club card (1.5 miles/dollar) and making sure to volunteer my ID & card with that first purchase. Then I buy two more, carefully swiping a $500 visa gift card (bought elsewhere for multiple points/miles per $) each time. The don’t notice (because they only see the stripe side of the card) and don’t ask again. It’s probably against their rules to use a gift card, but since they still get paid I don’t feel guilt about it.

    I’m off to another close town today to see if any of their Walgreens stores will take credit cards. *And* it’s AMEX small business Saturday. Got to go get some free money!

  10. I actually found this loophole last week and used it successfully a few times at both CVS and Walgreens to buy VRs. The only trouble i had was at Walgreens where they insisted on cash only, but i told her that these were prepaid and were as good as cash. Once they swiped the card, the total amount showed up on the register so I would assume the register is recognizing it as cash instead of credit, even though the register is ringing it up as credit.

    This is probably a bit too late, but this is a great way to convert the $100 Visa GC from staples with the $15 per card rebate into bluebird. I believe today is the last day for it.

    I was only able to find $200 Visa/MC/Amex GC at OfficeMax and Staples. Are there $500 at Office Depot? I will check today since now I am near a few Office Depots.

  11. I also wanted to note that the Visa/MC/Amex GC can take up to 24 hours to activate so there is probably a process where they verify that the CC used to purchase it is still good and perform a few other fraud/security checks before the GCs are activated. I believe this is the reason why all registers should accept it as a cash-equivalent payment for the VRs or Greendots (have not tried greendots yet).

  12. I registered one of my MasterCard gift cards yesterday then on the bluebird website to try to pull the money directly off the card but it told me the address was unverifiable. Try again today it’s been 24 hours.

  13. Mike, from your comment you tried to pull money directly from the MC gift card into bluebird. I believe the only way to put money on Bluebird with a MC GC is to purchase a vanilla reload card and then go to the vanilla reload site and enter in your bluebird Amex card number and the vanilla reload pin after you scratch it off of the vanilla card. I have managed to do this about an hour after buying the vanilla reload card. The money shows up almost instantly on your bluebird after redeeming it on the vanilla reload website.

  14. “Billing address does not match debit card address”. Nuts! Maybe I can swipe these for deposit at Walmart?? Gag.

  15. That is what I tried SK. Tough times scoring a VR in BMore this weekend.

  16. Because of all the cash-only restrictions on VRs, there seems to be some available in Boston. There is one store in Boston i go to and another in a suburb way outside of boston that has them as well so i am spacing them out throughout my billing cycle.

    It also sounds like you are trying to use the MC GC at an online merchant. Call MC to make sure it is activated properly. I registered a Visa GC online and was able to use it instantly afterwards.

    I believe you can swipe it at Target to load it into a Target Amex card, but they accept regular credit cards for this method so its best to use your CC instead of the GC because of the fees. Unfortunately, you need to get a target Amex temporary card in the store to get the permanent one and many have reported that they are hard to find.

    If you can’t get VRs, try greendot. It seems to work the same as bluebird with the bill pay and mailing checks when the payee is not listed. I have not tried it yet but have signed up and looked at the website. Still have not gotten the card though. At three CVS in Boston, all within a block from each other, two had greendots while the one in the middle had VRs.

  17. is BB a pin paid access ? because most gas pumps dont take prepaid visa or amex bc it asked for a pin. if this process works then BB can be used to pay for everything.

  18. I have had great luck in California. Purchased the gift card for $500.0;0 went to CVS and converted the gift card to a Vanilla reload and then transferred the funds into my bluebird account….perfect. The young sales clerk at CVS did have to check with management about purchasing the Vanilla Reload which took 5 seconds and I was off a running. So, in Southern California…Orange County it is working so far. Maybe I was lucky so I will be attempting this strategy again this week.

    The Bluebird account on the other had has not been good. So far i have not been able to issue a check and the 22 minute on hold with AX Bluebird service(3 times) stated they are having issues……you think! I was told to check back next week so on Monday I will make another attempt to see if AX has their act together. If they don’t get it together I am done with this strategy. I am not investing thousands to not write a check. More details to come.

  19. Alas! Success. CVS with a ton of VRs. Swiped my MC gift card, she entered the 3 digit and I signed and walked out. Now if only I’d brought all 5 cards with me.

  20. Yep it definitely works and I believe as long as the same store sells Visa/MC/Amex GCs, this trick will work. The only downside is that the GC cards take up to 24 hours (a min of 12 hours from a store clerk who tried it) to activate so you can’t do it all in one trip. If you do it a few times a month, use old cards for VR then buy new ones and repeat weekly.

    Be warned that the fees go up with doing it this way. You are essentially tripling (or more) the cost of earning points to re-evaluate before doing this long term. Its a great way to make minimum spend but do the calculation out before doing this.

  21. If I do this just to pay Honda each month I’d likely just buy direct from CVS for spend or use my Amex Honors for 6pts, who knows maybe Chase will have a pharmacy quarterly next year on the Freedom. Off to work my small biz Saturday (Im doing $50 restaurant cards, so it’s like half off gifts). Sorry for the post-a-Rama today.

  22. I wish my CVS stores carried the reload cards. My Walgreens have them but are cash only so far.

  23. I would put the value at 4x. You must count the purchase fee itself as a charge against the value of the reward in calculating the real value.

    You pay $500 + $4.95 + 3.95 to complete all the steps.
    You get 2,525 UR points, whose actual value is what you make of it. I would value the points at 1.8c each (because they are transferrable 1:1 to United Mileage Plus), so the out of pocket cost of $8.90 is really like getting 494 fewer points. If you subtract that you get a net value equivalent to 2031 points. This comes very close to 4x.

    The $8.90 is fixed, so your net value is going to be higher than mine if you rate UR points at more than 1.8c, or lower if you rate UR points lower than 1.8c. If MMS is ending up with a net of 3.5x, he feels the UR points are worth quite a bit less than I do.

    • @nav @ace @Grant @Jack $8.90 (4.95 + $3.95) for 2,525 points means that 1 point costs .35 cents per point ($8.90 cost / 2,525 Ultimate Rewards Points). Or you’re effectively earning 3.5 points per $1 spent after account for fees.

      – That’s been my experience as well, but it varies by store.

      @This Guy – I’ve got multiple emails and comments about this, so I just want folks to try out a small purchase with a gift card before buying a large amount of gift cards which they may not be able to use later is CVS doesn’t accept it.

      @Paul – In my experience, you can also use a credit card at CVS, but a few locations don’t accept them for gift cards.

      @Mike H
      – Thanks for sharing. You can always use Amazon to cash out of the gift card. Glad you like the mobile site, though I’m still tinkering with it in my free time! I don’t believe you can use a gift card to load a Bluebird at Wal-Mart.

      @rob – Very nice! 😉

      @SK – I’ve bought $500 gift cards from Office Depot before.

      @choi – You do get a PIN number with your Bluebird card.

      @Marc Halliburton – Thanks for sharing. I’m curious what issues you are experiencing with sending a check. I was able to do it quite easily online.

      – Not all CVS stores have them, but they are slowly trickling in.

  24. I was just hit with an Amex financial review , and i am sure it is because of me using blue bird to exclusively pay bills after utilizing the $5000 per month VR . I have had Amex cards for 20 years and never had an FR , will take my time but i really have nothing much to worry about, i always reported my correct income on applications.
    I am done with all the nonesense ways to earn points, ill stick to how i earned them in the past, by heavy spending on my business cards, i have 2 businesses where i can charge pretty hefty amounts each month.
    To most of you out there , do not overdo VR or use Blue Bird mostly for bill payment , do it very moferately

  25. If you can make big spend on a biz card why bother with the BB or VR? I certainly wouldnt.

  26. Most if not all places that sell VR on credit around my way force you to show your CC and DL. So the GC trick doesnt work (and I’ve tried to make it work).

  27. “@nav @ace @Grant @Jack $8.90 (4.95 + $3.95) for 2,525 points means that 1 point costs 3.5 cents per point ($8.90 cost / 2,525 Ultimate Rewards Points)”

    Unless my abacus is low on batteries, it’s 0.35 cents per point. But perhaps accountants use “new” math? I guess it worked for Bernie Madoff, so why not here?

  28. Today I was told by 2 Office Depots in DC that OD no longer sells Vanilla reload cards period. Was shocked and now have to figure out a way to salvage 5X spend. Hopefully there’s a way easier and cheaper than going to OD to buy a gift card to go to CVS to buy a VR.

  29. I had $1k in Vanilla Visa cards on hand, so I went to CVS and got two Vanilla Reload cards without any problems. So I dropped by Office Depot and picked up $2k in more Vanilla Visa cards. It was more convenient to go to a different CVS on the way home. The cashier had to ask her assistant manager, who informed her that there was a $1k per day limit, and ALWAYS check ID when paying with a credit card for GCs. So this clearly wasn’t going to work, especially given their stellar customer service skills (read: they were quite grumpy).

    This clearly isn’t dead, but it’s definitely YMMV.

  30. @Ellen: I had BAD experience with VR and BB. Today I tried to login BB and found out all my Amex accounts were shutdown. I had BB and had been doing VR reload $5000 a month for two months, made purchase and paid bills, etc. After talking to CSR, I was told they scanned anyone and reviewed unusual activities. He was unable to reopen BB account after shutdown.

  31. I also was told about the 1k limit per day at cvs. But was able to use the prepaid vanilla’s with no problem.

  32. I live in NYC and when i go into the ONLY Office Depot in town they request a manager to approve the transaction and its only for $100 tops! if that much.

    Also CVS is the same thing. But i usually just buy the VR there regardless at least i still get 1pt for $ spent not bad t pay your bills with

  33. Ah… the ever changing VR landscape. Went to another town today. The first Walgreens only took cash, the second was happy to take credit. 20% of the minimum spend on my newest Amex covered and one more card on the new Citi Visa. Checked online and the Walgreens purchase is recorded as a “purchase” by Citi.

    Went to the Walgreens I’ve used before and they have a new rule that says only one VR per person per day if buying with credit card. Which is fine. Life is too short to be greedy.. 🙂

  34. Also hit with an Amex FR today only did $2500 per month for two months on the Bluebird. I think I am getting out of this game. Not worth the risk and the hassle of dealing with Amex. Be careful if you don’t want your Amex’s and BB’s shutdown!

  35. Have not had any success in Orange County using a GC to buy VR cards at CVS. They all say that you can’t do it.

  36. You already posted about this a few weeks ago and you have to spell everything out again? Wow. Do you have to help people with 2+2 = 4 as well?

  37. What’s the point of buying VR’s at CVS or Walgreen’s? Only office stores get 5X.

    What’s now the “next best” office store gift card(s)?

  38. @tassojunior- amex hilton card gives 6x at cvs and walgreens

  39. Did people hit with the FR do all their spending on AMEX?

  40. I don’t understand why people would get a FR and what that has to do with spending. as long as they pay the bill. what do the FR’s try to accomplish?

    • @Ellen @John @Steve – A good reminder to not use AMEX cards exclusively for large purchases of Vanilla Reloads. You also posted similar comments before with the same IP address before, but thanks for the reminder! 🙂

      @tassojunior – The next best is either a AMEX or Citi Hilton card at a pharmacy or buying gift cards with an Ink Card and then buying Vanilla Reloads at CVS. See this post for more info.

      @LAX – I post what interests me and may be of use to readers. But thanks for your feedback!

      @Michael Belisle – The Financial Reviews are a risk containment measure, one use of which is to prevent folks from overextending the credit available to them. I wouldn’t use an AMEX card exclusively for Vanilla Reload purchases but would spread them out.

  41. @Steve, I made purchase and bill pay, reload 5000/mth for 2 months. CSR couldn’t explain BB was shutdown and he couldn’t reopen account. BB and VR are over for me.
    I have to find other alternative.

  42. I still don’t get your math. You state: “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!”

    If you spend $508.90 and per your calculation you get 3.5 points per $1 spent then that would total 1,781 points ($508.90 x 3.5). Yet, you should get 2,525 Ultimate Reward points. Seems to me if you get 2,525 points and spend $508.90, you’re receiving 4.96 points per dollar spent ($508.90 / 2,525.) What am I missing?

  43. I’ve spent like $1400 so far on my $5000 credit limit on the amex. i’ve paid $1000 so far from the bluebird account. i also have the paypal debit card and I buy the paypay cards also. also have the paypal extras card so i’m getting 1.5% cash back plus the paypal rewards. thinking that wouldn’t get a FR on paypal

  44. Ellen, John and Steve are from the same IP? That’s dishonest. But their comments are unsettling. I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but $5,000 rolling through a checking account (which BB is suppose to be) per month is nothing. I haven’t started using BB yet…reading all these ‘shut-down’ comments are making think twice about using it. Still sitting on the sidelines watching.

  45. @Dean – Keep trying, I’ve had lots of success in OC 🙂

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  47. @LAX — I think MMS will admit he’s not the best at showing his math work in his posts. For our sake, it’s probably better he not teach what 2+2 equals.

  48. Very interesting to say the least if Ellen, John and Steve are all posting from the same IP address.

    Patrick, you are not really spending $508.90 since you are able to use the $500. You really only “lost” or “spent” the $8.90 for the 2,525 UR points.

  49. John, that’s even better! That means I got 283 points per dollar spent! Wow, what a deal!

  50. Can you confirm that all 3 posted from the same IP?

  51. Is there any way to confirm they all posted from the same Internet Protocol?

  52. Darius…never posted about my accounts being shutdown before…..not sure what your ip addy thinga ma jig is saying…but I was just giving people a heads up…they shut down my BB and all my other Amex cards are under FR. All I put on my BB was $2500 a month and bill payed to my mortgage company.

  53. @steve, why did you post so any comments about the same thing? Once was enough… Move on little doggie if you don’t want to play the game anymore. The game is use different cards so nothing gets flagged, this was explained in Darius’s Blog and others, I’m sure this is why the OD deal is no longer around…..

  54. Whats up with everyone and their instance to blame an individual and not OD for pulling the product off the shelf. Its OD fault that they no longer carry Banilla.

  55. @MileageUpdate – and while they’re at it, they might as well blame themselves for taking advantage of a deal that is obviously unprofitable to the companies that offer it.

  56. I was just looking over what the points buy you from hilton versus usaa. usaa points are only $1/point but to me a hotel stay is worth only 15000 points versus 30000 or so from hilton points. i think i will start earning on usaa also since usaa points don’t expire either. don’t know what i was thinking about other rewards

    • @PatrickA – You can redeem 1 Ultimate Rewards point for 1 cent per point cash back. You earn 2,525 points for spending $8.9 in fees. You can redeem 890 points to get $8.90 and recover the cost of the gift cards and reload cards, so your net earning is 1,635 points or ~3.3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent.

      @Michael Belisle – Everything I’ve read about PayPal suggests that it is risky since PayPal is very sensitive to such activity.

      @Lively @john @Mark @Kelly – I should have been clearer. They are from different IP addresses, but all 3 IP addresses have previously posted comments warning folks about shutdowns with the Ink Bold and Vanilla Reloads and Chase, or crude messages with different email addresses warning about deals being killed.

  57. Thanks for the clarification on how you came up with the 3.3 points per dollar spent. Never in a million years would I have figured that calculation out. Had no idea you were trying to figure out “net” earnings after paying yourself back for the cost of the gift cards. So, I think we were both right, just calculating two different things.

  58. Shaking my head at the people who are supposedly being shut down by Amex for maxing out the $5k per month on VR reloads. Don’t you people have any impulse control at all? Just because there is a max doesn’t mean you’re obligated to hit it month after month. Geez.

  59. Senior Citizen wanting to know

    Perhaps I am being naive but isn’t BB suppose to be a bill paying center? What is wrong if I load it with VR, transfer the money and then pay my monthly bills? I own three properties, have auto insurance, health insurance and a myriad of other monthly bills. I am trying to split my VR purchases at CVS (yes, it is only 1 X points) between two credit cards.

    Can you also explain what a FR does? Do you have to justify your spending and if you do, what is wrong with buying cards to load your BB with.

    Please, don’t flame me because I just don’t understand what the problem is.

    • @Senior Citizen wanting to know – Spreading you purchases on different credit cards should help. A Financial Review is when AMEX suspends your accounts and asks for bank account details or tax returns. It usually ends well if you provide the information to AMEX. However, they do frown on using their cards to buy cash equivalents and circumventing the more expensive cash advance fees when you use a credit card to withdraw cash. That said, I wouldn’t use an AMEX card excessively to buy Vanilla Reloads, but would spread it across different cards.

  60. Planning to try rob’s method described above so I can unload some of these gift cards. Haven’t used gift cards for awhile, but recall an issue whether to indicate purchase is Debit or Credit. The card says ‘Debit’, but if so, is a pin required? A little help, anyone… anyone? Buehler?

  61. @Jauntin: My first experience with gift cards I had the same debit/credit confusion. Despite saying “debit” on the front, they are treated as credit cards when you use them. A true debit gift card would come with a pin.

    A tip, BTW: I ended up with a handful of gift cards with small amounts (less than $5) on them. Discovered that one of the online payment services I use (for my water bill, actually) doesn’t charge to use credit cards. Made half a dozen $1-$5 payments and cleaned out the gift cards.

    Also, the VISA GCs I buy allow you to go online and register them. This allows you to assign name/address/zip information to the card and make them act like true credit cards.

  62. @rob: thanks much for the help.

  63. does anyone know in NYC where the Vanilla Reloads are sold? I’ve heard references to Office Depot and CVS but the ones that I have checked do not have them. Much appreciated!

  64. @ rob

    Are those VISA G cards issued by Meta? Thx

  65. where can you purchase VR cards?
    I tried both CVS and 7-11 and neither had.
    any ideas?

  66. I’ve searched a lot of CVS’ and Walgreens and 7-11s in NYC. I found a few Walgreens that had it, but a message pops up saying cash only.

    I was able to find 3 at my local CVS, which at first i was told i couldn’t buy with credit card, but then i went back and it was fine when a different person rang it up. At the other CVS’s they have a spot for the cards, but none are there. So not sure if they’re sold out (like the 4 stores i went to and the 10 stores i called) or they aren’t carrying them. I called just about every 7-11 in Manhattan and none had them. A week ago, the one by me had a bunch, now none.

    If anyone finds any in NYC, please let me know, and don’t buy them all, just trying to pay my rent 🙂

  67. One more thing semi related, I haven’t found 1 staples in NYC that carried prepaid credit cards (AMEX, MC, Visa) for more than $200.

    As of like 3-4 days ago, Office Depot stopped selling cards over $200.

    Any ideas of other office supplies stores that carry $500 cards?

  68. Walgreens now requires you to buy reloads with cash or debit, mandated by the register (not the cashier).

    @Brad – there were a bunch at the Astor Place Walgreens in NYC but I presume it’s because they now require cash.

    A Walgreens in SF also disallowed using credit to purchase reloads.

    Hope this isn’t the end of Bluebird – I didn’t even get to load any money on it!

  69. @David: Re gift cards. Yes, they’re issued by “MetaBank”. I “register” them with to give them an address/zip code.

  70. Hi Darius,

    If I buy AMEX or VISA $500 prepaid GC at Office Depot with a fee of $4.95 and use it for grocery shopping, I still earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points on Chase INK Bold business card, right? If so, that’s still pretty good deal. As for Vanilla Reload Card, I tried 8 CVS stores in local and all of them were sold out. If seems very challenging to locate a store with Vanilla Reload Cards in stock. Have to check it out again next week.

  71. Hi all,

    1) I do not have any OD store locally…do all OD’s carry $500 GC by visa/amex/MC? If yes i can drive an hour to go an get them, can somone reconfirm?

    2) CVS/staples/Walgreens do not have $500 Giftcards, max amount for their cards is $200…any suggesitons of what to do/where to look?

    TIA for the replies/input.

    • @Chris – You earn the 5X when you buy the gift card with an Ink at Office Depot. And you can then use that at any other store including grocery stores.

      @Rahul – I’d crunch the numbers to see if it is worth your time to drive to OD just for the cards!

  72. I’ve tried nearly 30 WG/CVS wih the $200Visa GC from the Staples promo and silver Visa prepaid, but none of them were accepted. Is there a GC or prepaid that seems to be more likely to work?

  73. what u did not answer is, if u know for sure if ALL OD’S carry $500 gc or NOT…………can u reconfirm? TIA……..

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  75. to stay under the radar with companies you can buy $500 gift cards at malls and outlets for Amex gift cards for $3 charge, or $5 online. it allows you to use credit cards to purchase them. You can use them anywhere that takes Amex as well. (c to the v s or wal to the green) you only get 1 point this way and total cost is about $7 for 503 points, costs little over penny a point, but hey if we can pay mortgage on it and stay under the radar that’s fine with me.

  76. hi darius, i understood folks’ FR concerns differently than you did. my interpretation of what people wrote was that they were getting their amex accounts shut down for maxing out their bluebirds by loading the max of $5k a month onto them, not for buying $5k of VRs with the same amex card each month. do you think it’s safe to load $5k a month onto bluebird and use it for checks and bill pay?

  77. I’ve got multiple stores near me that let me buy the Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card. My goal right now is just to use the Reload card purchases to fulfill my spending requirements for a few new credit cards, so that I can receive the bonus awards.

    I’ve not really “churned” cards until recently. I had been under the impression that purchases of gift cards are excluded from points/miles-earning on the various credit cards, and that the purchases were categorized at the point of sale so that the credit card issuer knows that the purchase was for a gift card. Is that not the case?

    Also: I just opened a couple of these CC accounts, and a couple more are about halfway through the 3-month bonus earning period. Does anyone know a way to verify with a CC company that the VR card purchases did qualify for meeting my spend requirements? The CC programs say that the points/miles don’t credit to my accounts until 6-8 weeks later. If I’m counting on my VR purchases for my required spending (for the bonuses), and then for some reason they don’t . . . . then it could be too late to find another way to rack up the spending.

  78. Just to clarify my previous post–I’m assuming that, for retailer categorization purposes, the various prepaid debit cards, cash cards, reload cards, etc would fall into the same category as “gift cards.”

    • @ExitRowSeat – If you purchase gift cards from retail stores it is coded as a retail purchase and you earn the miles and points for it. Could this change in the future? Perhaps, but it will take a lot of work to figure out what millions of people buy when they go shopping. I wouldn’t call and tell them about the VR. If you earned miles for the purchases in your statement, it likely counts towards the sign up bonus spending requirement.

  79. I’m not clear on the potential risks using VR/BB to pay bills like rent, mortgage, etc. Seems like there are three separate steps that might raise flags with the financial companies:

    1) Purchasing VRs with credit cards, or too purchasing many VRs on a single credit card.
    2) Using lots of VRs to load the BB. Or, maybe only using VRs to load the BB.
    3) Using the BB to pay bills like rent, mortgage, etc. Or maybe only using the BB for such purposes.

    Which of the three areas will raise flags and risk a shutdown? Is the risk with AmEx shutting down your BB, or with AmEx shutting down your AmEx credit cards, or with Chase/Citi/whatever shutting down your credit card because of too many VR purchases? Can anyone help with this?

  80. I doubt AMEX will shut down Bluebirds – they are now effectively shut down to those of us who were taking advantage of the credit card loophole. Not all, of course, but for me they are useless now, unless I happen to find someplace while traveling that’ll sell me Vanilla reloads using a credit card or gift card – something that they would never do (intentionally) even when credit cards were OK.

    Now Bluebird is left being what AMEX intended – a way for people who get paid in cash to send checks & “bank” with them without having a conventional checking account.

  81. Just an update from the Midwest–I’ve bought 11 VR cards over the past few days, at five different stores, all using credit cards . . . One cashier even said to me, “What are these cards used for? A guy came in here a few days ago and bought a bunch of them using a credit card.”

  82. @ExitRowSeat: Interesting. Where in the midwest?

  83. @rob: What is the credit card loophole you’re referring to? Loading BB with VRs purchased with a credit card, even if it is not an Amex card?

  84. Crucial Vaccines & Syringes

  85. @Joe – yes. I’m sure the intent of the BB was to give people who don’t have bank accounts the ability to send checks and use a debit card rather than carry bundles of cash around. With a little profit to AMEX, of course.

    Buying VR cards with a credit card and basically turning them into a points churning exercise for people who already have lots of credit isn’t what they intended. As OD and now Walgreens turn off (although apparently not in the midwest) the ability to churn points with VR, Bluebird settles in to being more what it was intended to be.

    IMHO, of course. Maybe I’m missing something.

  86. Concerning the Vanilla mastercard:
    I would be read the terms and be careful to follow them.
    I received a $25 card and it had a service fee when it was sold. It also has a 2.50/month fee that starts in the 7th month after purchase.
    These onerous fees could destroy any benefit you are trying to get.

  87. Have 2 CVS locations 2 miles from my house in different directions. One CVS has not restocked, the other one I have hit for 12k now. I’ve maxed out Bluebird the last two months to pay mortgage, rent, car payment, electric and water bills. No problems so far. I vary the cards I use but I was crushing the AMEX Hilton (6x pts) until the devaluation. I now use Chase cards and SPG even though its 1x pts.

  88. Daraius or Rob, have either of you tried purchasing reloads at CVS using a CVS GC? I know store policy (everywhere) is you can’t buy GC with GC, so if you ask they will say no, but have you tried the card swapping trick Rob mentioned? If it doesnt work as a straight purchase maybe adding an item (like a pack of gum) in addition would work?

  89. A week ago I purchased a Vanilla Prepaid Reload Card from the CVS/pharmacy. Since then, every time I try to use it on the internet I keep being asked first, to enter my 10 digit card number followed by my Pin number. When I do that, I then get asked to enter, the fifteen to nineteen card number on the front of my card…There IS NO such number not only on the front of the card
    but anywhere else on the card! I paid $100 for this card and I’m unable to use it for some unknown reason, also, the CVS say’s there is no refunds of the money paid for the card…Is this Vanilla Prepaid Reload card a SCAM????