Breaking News: You Can Now Use Gift Cards For Cash Back, Loading Bluebird, and Buying Money Orders!

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Update:  You can no longer load a Vanilla Visa to your Bluebird.

A Million Mile Secrets reader (thanks!) pointed me to this FlyerTalk thread which discusses the new ability to add a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to a prepaid Visa or MasterCard debit gift card.

Even Better With a PIN!

Even Better With a PIN!

This is good news because you can NOW use your Visa or MasterCard gift card as a debit card with your PIN to:

  • Load your American Express Bluebird at Wal-Mart
  • Buy Money Orders at Wal-Mart, grocery stores or other locations to pay loans etc.
  • Get Cash Back at certain stores
  • Buy Pre-Paid cards from stores which don’t sell them with a credit card, but let you use a debit card
  • Potentially pay a lower debit card fee when you pay your taxes

This means that it becomes easier to complete the minimum spending requirement on your new credit cards or to use credit cards for purchases which otherwise couldn’t be made with a credit card.

Unfortunately, you can’t use the cards to withdraw money from an ATM.

According to this article, the Federal Reserve has provided informal guidance that all Visa or MasterCard pre-paid cards or gift cards have to have PIN number from April 1, 2013.

WARNING

Not all Visa and MasterCard gift cards currently let you use a PIN, so buy a small denomination gift card first to see if it makes sense for YOU.  Also, getting cash back seems to vary – in my experience – based on retailer, so my experiences may not be the same as yours.

Buying a small amount of money orders to pay your babysitter, mortgage or to pay student loans could be worth it to earn miles & points.

Buying lots of money orders just to deposit in your bank account for the miles and points will arouse suspicion – at the banks and at the places you buy them from.  That’s because anyone can buy money orders and deposit them in banks and “launder” money.

If the banks get suspicious, they may file a Suspicious Activity Report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.  Or they may shut down your account without allowing you to explain the transactions.

In addition, most sellers of money orders will ask for identification and take down your social security number, driver’s license and other identifying information if you usually attempt to buy more than $3,000 in money orders at a time, and most will not sell you more than $10,000 worth of money orders a day.  But you shouldn’t need such high limits if you use them for genuine transactions.

My Experience Using Gift Cards With a PIN

In my experience, some gift card manufacturers are scrambling to get systems in place and not all of them let me register or use a PIN with my Visa or MasterCard gift card.

But they were aware of the requirement and the customer service reps indicated that I would be able to use a PIN very soon.  Note that there are different issuers of the pre-paid Visa and MasterCard and they each have a different process to register a PIN.  Some make you call in to register a PIN and some make you do it online.

MasterCard and Visa Card Bought at Dillon’s/Kroger

I bought a $100 MasterCard & Visa gifts card from Kroger since I couldn’t find a higher denomination card and paid the $5.95 activation fee.  These cards were issued by US Bank and looked like this.  Unfortunately, the MasterCard version didn’t let me use a PIN, but the Visa version did!

Gift Card PIN Number-002

MasterCard & Visa Gift Cards at Kroger

The backs of the gift card looked liked this.

Back of US Bank Gift Card

Back of US Bank Gift Card

I was thrilled when I got a separate receipt which asked me to call 1-866-952-5653 to select a PIN.  It also mentioned that I couldn’t use the card to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Receipt With Information on Setting a PIN

Receipt With Information on Setting a PIN

I called 1-866-952-5653 and pressed: option 1 for “English,  then option 2 for “other inquiries” then option 3 for “Setting a PIN.”  I entered a 4 digit PIN and confirmed the number.

CASH BACK

I then went back to Dillon’s and tried to get cash back with a small purchase.  But the transaction would not go through if I wanted cash back.  But I could make purchases with a PIN if I did not choose the cash back option.

I also wasn’t able to get cash back at CVS or Walgreens with these gift cards issued by US Bank.

Getting Cash Back!

Getting Cash Back!

But I WAS able to get cash back at Wal-Mart!  I’m not sure if this will work at all Wal-Marts or not, but it suggests that some stores will let you get cash back with a gift card while others won’t.

MONEY ORDERS

I was able to buy money orders at Wal-Mart and Kroger when I used the Visa but NOT the MasterCard as a debit card and entered my PIN number.

But be VERY CAREFUL with buying money orders.  Amounts over $3,000 require special documentation and banks are suspicious of folks – and have to file government reports – who deposit a lot of money orders into their bank account.  But you can use money orders to pay bills which you otherwise couldn’t pay with a credit card.

LOADING BLUEBIRD

I WAS able to load my American Express Bluebird at Wal-Mart using the Visa, but not the MasterCard gift cards with a PIN!

If you can find Vanilla Reload cards at CVS or other shops, you can also buy a Vanilla Reload at CVS and load your Bluebird online via the Vanilla Reload website.

But if you can’t buy Vanilla Reloads at CVS, you could buy a Visa gift card with a credit card.  Then go to Wal-Mart and load your Bluebird (up to $1,000 a day).  After that, you can use Bluebird to pay bills, write checks etc.

You can load up to $1,000 a day and $5,000 a month to your Bluebird by using a debit card – or gift card with a PIN – at Wal-Mart without a fee.

WAS THIS WORTH IT?

It depends on the amount of the gift card (a larger denomination is better since the activation fee remains the same) and how much you value the miles or points which you earn.

I paid a $5.95 activation fee for a $100 gift card & I earned 105.95 miles/points (assuming I used a card which earns 1 mile/point per $1).

This means that I paid 5.62 cents per mile or point (595 cents /105.95 miles earned) which is a very high price per mile/or point.  But it was worth it as a test!

My cost would have been 1.18 cents per mile or point if I had bought a $500 denomination gift card. My cost would have been lower if I used a card which gave a category bonus for purchases at that store.

Vanilla Visa Cards Bought at Dillon’s/Kroger & CVS

I bought a $200 Vanilla Visa gift card from Kroger & CVS.  You can load between $20 and $500 for a flat $4.95 fee on the Vanilla Visa gift cards.  Ideally, I should have loaded $500, but I wanted to make sure that I could use the card with a PIN first, so I bought a lower denomination gift card.

These cards were issued by The Bankcorp Bank and looked like this.

Gift Cards at CVS

Vanilla Visa Gift Cards at CVS

The back of the card looked liked this.

Back of Vanilla Visa Gift Card

Back of Vanilla Visa Gift Card

I did NOT get a receipt indicating that I could sign-up for a PIN, nor was there any indication on the card packaging that I could sign-up for a PIN.  So I went to the Vanilla Visa website and entered my card number.

Enter Gift Card Number

Enter Gift Card Number

I then noticed a new tab on the left hand side which read “Manage PIN

 

Click "Manage PIN"

Click “Manage PIN”

The instructions suggested that I could go to a store and select “Debit” and enter in a 4 digit number which would automatically be set as my PIN for future transactions.

How to Use Your Pin

How to Set Your PIN

But I wasn’t able to make ANY debit purchases at Kroger, Dillon’s, Wal-Mart, CVS & Wal-Greens using a PIN with the Vanilla Visa gift card!

I could make purchases using the Vanilla Visa gift card as a credit card (which is how you normally used a gift card to make a purchase), but couldn’t buy ANYTHING using the card as a debit card with a PIN.

So I called the Vanilla Visa helpline and a few reps told me that I couldn’t use the card as a debit card and that there was no way to get a PIN.

Finally, one rep acknowledged that you can’t – currently – use the Vanilla Visa gift card as a debit card with PIN.  But she mentioned that I would “soon” be able to use it as a debit card with a PIN and that they haven’t activated the PIN function as yet.

I can’t wait for this to happen soon and will report back!

Other Experiments

I’m experimenting with other gift cards and will post updates of what works and what doesn’t.

There are lots of Visa and MasterCard gift cards, so please share your experiences in the comments!

Bottom Line

Having a PIN with a Visa or MasterCard gift card opens up lots of possibilities.  But I’d use this only to complete the minimum spending requirement on cards and to make payments which I otherwise couldn’t make using a credit card.

Resist the temptation to go overboard!  And do the math to see if this works for you!  I’d also only buy a SMALL denomination gift card first, to see if this works for you, since there seems to be differences based on where you use the gift card and which bank issued the gift card.

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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.

336 Responses to Breaking News: You Can Now Use Gift Cards For Cash Back, Loading Bluebird, and Buying Money Orders!

  1. Mike I have been at this for slightly over a year. 1. Make sure you have a Bluebird or GoBank account. 2. Make sure you have a Walmart nearby. 3. Buy Visa gift cards (find at grocery stores, Walmart, or Walgreens/RiteAid. 4. Load them at your local Walmart. Depending on the cashiers experience you can “reload” your Bluebird or GoBank at the cashier, or if lucky use the Walmart ATM/Moneycenter machine. GoBank allows $2500 daily reloads, while Bluebird is $1000.

    Issues: I don’t like reloading with cashiers, as it never feels right reloading >$1000 to those who make very little. 2. Many of the Walgreens/RiteAid will either not sell you Visa gift cards using your credit card, or will only let you buy one gift card per day.

  2. Thanks Yvonne. Yes I have a bluebird and a walmart nearby. I am fine with the daily limit of $1000/day in bluebird. The main question is about the Visa gift card….Which particular visa card and from where should I buy it with a credit card ? I have been reading about it from various blogs and people talk about Visa Gift cards with pins?
    You thought on this would be very helpful
    Thanks
    Mike

  3. Hello Mike,

    So far I’ve had good luck with virtually all the visa gift card/debit card. I have bought visa gift cards at Walmart, Kroger grocery store, Walgreens, and RiteAid. Walmart and RiteAid charges five dollars per card, well Kruger grocery stores charge six Per gift card. Walmart in RiteAid Appear to be the easiest of the cards. Either you make up your pin when you make your reload, or it is the last four numbers on the gift card. Some of the older Kroger visa gift cards you have to call to set up your pin. Recommend doing a tester, and see how it works for you.

  4. Hi,

    I remember you mentioning once issues with using Citibank cards for purchases similar to these, do you think there are any issues with cash advance fees etc if I used these to subsequently get money orders from walmart?

  5. Hi.
    Very interesting piece of information. But I was wondering as to whether you could provide us with a list of visa for cards with pictures of them which we can use to offload money into bluebird.
    Thanks in Advance
    Mike

  6. Hi.
    Very interesting piece of information. But I was wondering as to whether you could provide us with a list of visa gift cards with pictures of them which we can use to offload money into bluebird.
    Thanks in Advance
    Mike

  7. Sorry about the previous posts…Don’t know how it got posted thrice…..
    Mike

  8. ^ I second Mike’s comment(s). I bought a $200 Visa GC from Staples (supplied by MetaBank), set up the pin, and it did not work at the Wal-Mart kiosk. Does it take a while for the pin/debit function to work or did I simply buy the wrong type of gift card?

  9. @Zane – Working on it!

  10. Jonathan Wilson

    Mike,
    You mention being very careful when purchasing money orders. Is there anything wrong with purchasing $5,000 worth of visa gift cards a month and loading them directly into BlueBird (1000 a day for 5 days) each month and the paying off the credit card directly from BlueBird? Would this be considered money laundering in any way? Just curious.

  11. @Zane. I read somewhere that you have to give it 48 hours for the PIN to be active, so I’ve been waiting two days after buying them (Metabank GC’s) before loading onto a Bluebird at Walmart. Also, make sure you set the PIN under each cards “details” section when logged on to the website and not just the GoWallet PIN used when trying to change card details.

  12. @Tom, Have you been buying the GC from Metabank at an Office Supplies store with your credit card without any issues?

  13. @Tom Thanks! It worked seamlessly 48 hours later. I also bought 2 different variable visa gift cards (the OneVanilla and Vanilla Gift Visa gift cards for $500 each) from Walgreens, which worked on the kiosk as well.

  14. Ok, I am a new learner about BlueBird. I do understand the value in buying the Vanilla Reload with my CC to earn points, I think that is cut and dry. What I’m not understanding is this whole gift card thing? I’m lost! Please help…would someone please explain why I’d benefit in purchasing (need/not need) one in plain English? Thanks very much!

  15. @Zane
    Is $200 the largest denomination you can buy with your CC at OD?
    The variable Visa GC you are mentioning, you bought those with a CC without any issues?

    @Norma You cannot longer buy VR’s with your CC at CVS as of April 3rd!
    Thanks!

  16. @Maria Yes, look for the OneVanilla cards that you can load $500 onto. I was able to buy 3 of them with a credit card in South Florida at Walgreens. The Office Depots around me don’t allow you to buy gift cards with CC, unfortunately, but I was able to buy a $200 one at Staples (yes, that was the largest amount I could find).

  17. @Norma Since you can no longer buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card, purchasing a gift card w/ pin is an alternative way to loading your Bluebird. It requires an extra step, but at least there’s still a way. You buy a vanilla visa gift card with your cc, take it to a Wal-Mart money center, and use it as a debit card to load your Bluebird account at either a kiosk or the cashier. If you Google it, there are a couple of blogs that give you a step by step process.

  18. @Zane, how specifically do you load a a Bluebird account with a Vanilla Visa gift card where there is no PIN number set in advance? I’ve Googled it as you suggested but can’t find any instructions. Thanks.

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  20. Hi Darius,

    This problem just happened to my friend. He bought the Vanilla Visa GC at CVS and tried to reload it to his bluebird on Walmart Moneypass ATM. We checked the vanillavisa.com and found The card has been activated and has the balance of 500 dollars. The PIN was cleared. However, the Walmart ATM still failed.

    Every thing is fine until the final step. After he swipe the debit card for 500 reload and input the PIN, the machine would give back a receipt with information like “debit not approved”. At the same time, the account history of the card on vanillavisa.com has two more records, one debit and one credit, each one with the following same reference information:

    Reference:
    150100 POSPurchase:Checking:NoAccount $500.00

    Have you ever seen such a problem?

    Thanks,

    Yi

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  22. Hi
    I live in NYC and just had my VR’s taken away like everyone else. In response, I wanted try buying a MO with a Visa GC. I got the kind with a pin and my only option is the post office since everyone here only sells money orders with cash. I should also state that tho I was kind of hassled at one cvs, they did sell me the gc with a cc. They have not stopped selling non reloadables that way.

    I got pretty excited when the post office (big main branch on 34th st) didn’t ask for id, since the card has no name other than GC recipient. Low and behold, I swipe, put the pin in and…..declined? I called vanilla visas number on the back of the card and they said there shouldn’t be a problem, the card says it’s accepted anywhere visa debit is, obviously with the exception of ATMs, and the Post Office says they accept debits with pins. Any ideas why I was declined? I tried buying one for $495 and then $400. I dumbly didn’t try a smaller denomination. Could this be why? Any ideas? BTW, I need the cash to pay for school since my school charges exorbitant fees for using credit cards.

  23. I am new to this, and went to Walmart to load my card at the money center. The clerks tried, and ripped the back open (I’ve done this before and this wasn’t done), and when they tried to take the card, first there was an additional $3.00 charge, and then it was declined. Has anyone else had this experience? Any advice as to what to do if this occurs again? Thank you

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  25. went to Wal-Mart today with a Vanilla Visa GC and tried to load it onto my Bluebird and had issues with the pin being recognized by the machine. Has anyone had success with loading a pin to the Vanilla Visa Gift Card issued by The Bancorp Bank yet? Is there a certain # of Digits I need to use? I tried 4 and it didnt work. Suggestions or advice is welcome, Thanks, Mike

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  27. STOP using Vanilla cards at Walmart.
    They DO NOT WORK ANYMORE.

  28. Joe Schmoe

    Hey everyone – thought I would just chime in on this post. I was really strapped for cash and needed to pull $200 out of my credit card and exchange it for cash. I followed what was said above and purchased a Vanilla Visa Gift Card from CVS which was purchased with my credit card without problem. However, I struggled to purchase a money order at Walmart. I tried a bunch of other places but I finally was able to purchase one at RITEAID of all places!!! I purchased one for $195 (+the ~60 cent fee) and then just swiped my card. It prompted for a PIN (first time using the card as debit) which I entered and confirmed, and the transaction went through. It even prompted for CASH BACK!!! AT RITE AID!!! I think Giant/Martin’s grocery store may also accept debit for their Money Orders but I am not sure.

    With the Western Union MO in hand, I was much closer to getting cash for my Visa gc. I tried to cash the MO out to myself at Walmart (only accepts MoneyGram), Walgreens, and Rite Aid, all of which do not actually cash out the MO’s. Giant/Martin’s can cash out the Western Union MO’s if they were purchased from their store (and again, not entirely sure if they can be purchased here with a Visa gc using debit) so I thought I was SOL. My bank was closed for the day so I was scrambling, but I managed to make it into a TD Bank before they closed on a Saturday. I opened up a new checking account, deposited the MO and was able to withdraw $100 on the spot. The other $95 will be available in a few days. This was only because I had just opened the account – future deposits should be fully accessible right away.

    So yeah, RITE AID allows you to use the VISA vanilla gc to purchase a Western Union MO and even PROMPTS FOR CASH BACK!!! Just need to make sure they know it is debit. From there, it’s simply a matter of cashing the check in at a bank you have an account with and you’ve got cash in hand!!!

    Thanks for the thorough guide by the way – you truly helped me out in a time of need!

  29. Joe Schmoe

    I also wanted to note that I tried purchasing a Moneygram MO at Walmart and it was instantly declined – the cards automatically come up as Credit and cannot be used. RITE AID FTW!!!

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  31. Did any one purchase a Vanilla Visa gift card or One Vanilla in July with credit card?

  32. Yes. I have purchased both in July with a credit card, both from CVS with an AMEX gift card. No luck on unloading to Bluebird, of course.

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  34. Does rite aid stil work with one vanilla visa for MO?

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  36. moshe steinmetz

    I was in 2 walk marts in ny and in nj with the visa card from stapels and thay didn’t take it

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