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Update: You can no longer load a Vanilla Visa to your Bluebird.
Million Mile Secrets reader, Walter, writes in:
Doesn’t Citi code all gift card and Vanilla Reward card purchases as cash advances that don’t apply to the $10,000 minimum spend?
Walter is referring to buying gift cards or Vanilla Reload cards to meet the high $10,000 spending requirement on the Citi American Airlines Executive card.
Citi American Airlines Executive Card
The Citi American Airlines Executive card is currently offering 100,000 miles and a $200 statement credit. You do have to pay a $450 annual fee, but you get a statement credit of $200 after you spend at least $200 on the card. So you’re effectively paying $250 for 100,000 American Airlines miles.
Emily and I do not get a commission for this card, but according to the mother-in-law rule we will
always post the best offers even if they don’t pay us a commission. This is the best credit card bonus offer I’ve seen in the past year! And I recently applied and was approved for this offer.
have to spend a hefty $10,000 within 3 months. That is a lot of money to spend in 3 months!
I have written before about 40 ways to meet minimum spending limits. One of my favorite ways to meet high minimum spending is to buy gift cards or Vanilla Reloads.
How Do I Use Gift Cards to Meet Minimum Spending?
Buying gift cards with a credit card makes it easier to meet large spending requirements. You can buy gift cards at grocery stores, gas stations, department stores, office supply stores etc.
1. Use for Future Expenses
If Walter buys a gift card with a credit card, he can effectively meet his minimum spending now, but use the gift cards to buy stuff later.
For example, if Walter gets the Citi Executive card on February 28, 2014he has to spend $10,000 on the card by ~May 28, 2014 to get the sign-up bonus.
Let’s say that Walter can’t complete the minimum spending by the end of May, but he plans on remodeling his kitchen in July. So Walter can buy Home Depot gift cards online, at Home Depot or in other stores. This helps him to meet his minimum spending requirement now. But he can use the gift cards for his remodel in July.
However, he should be sure that he can pay his credit card balance in full when it comes due! There’s no point paying high interest fees.
He can also buy Visa, Mastercard, or American Express gift cards and use them for other future purchases. However, he shouldn’t buy these gift cards DIRECTLY from a bank because then they may be coded as a purchase from a financial institution. That’s because Citi usually charges fees for purchases directly from a financial institution.
But it is okay to buy them from grocery stores etc. because your purchase gets coded as a grocery store purchase.
2. Pay Bills That Don’t Allow You to Pay With a Credit Card
Many folks have bills which you can’t pay with a credit card. Some examples are home mortgage, student loans, car payments, and rent.
To get around this, Walter can use his Citi card to buy gift cards with PIN numbers or Vanilla Reload cards. Walter can load up to $500 on either Visa or MasterCard gift cards or on Vanilla Reload cards.
Note that prepaid cards typically charge activation fees (~$5 to ~$6). But it is a small amount to pay for being able to meet large minimum spending requirements.
After Walter buys the Vanilla Reload cards or Gift Cards, he can load his Bluebird with the Vanilla Reload cards or the Gift Cards and then use them to pay his bills which otherwise can’t be paid with a credit card!
How Do I Load My Bluebird Account?
If you don’t already have a Bluebird account sign-up for one on the Bluebird website.
You can load your Bluebird account with gift cards OR Vanilla Reload cards. You can load up to $1,000 per day and up to $5,000 per month on your Bluebird account.
A. Use Gift Cards to Load Your Bluebird
Visa and MasterCard Gift Cards with PIN numbers can be found at most grocery stores, office supply stores, or gas stations. The amount of the gift card will earn miles or points (and count towards the minimum spending) when you buy them with a credit card.
However, note that you CANNOT load American Expresss gift cards to your Bluebird account.
There are different issuers of gift cards 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. And some just require you to enter a random number when you make your first purchase!
Any Walmart cashier can load the money onto your Bluebird account for you. Or you can load it yourself when you go to a Walmart with a MoneyCenter Kiosk. The kiosks are easier, especially if you have several gift cards! But they aren’t always available in stores.
B. Use Vanilla Reloads to Load Your Bluebird Account
You can find Vanilla Reload cards at CVS and Family Fare grocery stores. Remember to use your credit card for your purchase to meet minimum spending requirements!
You can load your Bluebird account by visiting the Vanilla Reload website.
How Do I Use a Bluebird Account to Pay My Bills?
Once you have money in your Bluebird account you can pay your bills online. Bluebird will send your payment to your mortgage, credit card, student loan etc. provider.
Will I Get Charged A Cash Advance Fee?
A cash advance fee is a higher interest rate and charge for either withdrawing cash with a credit card. Or for using a credit card to buy certain “like cash” items.
In my experience, you will NOT, be charged a cash advance fee for buying gift cards or Vanilla Reloads at stores. Vanilla Reload cards and many other prepaid gift cards are purchased at stores such as grocery stores, gas stations, office supply stores etc.
The charges you make are categorized by a merchant code. The merchant code
is based upon the primary type of sale made by the store.
So if you buy a Visa gift card from your local grocery store. It is categorized as a grocery purchase. And not as a purchase of “like cash” items which usually triggers the cash advance charge.
However, there are some gift cards and prepaid cards such as the US Bank Buxx card that you can purchase DIRECTLY from a bank.
Avoid using Citi credit cards when buying a prepaid debit card directly from a bank. They usually code purchases from other financial institutions such as banks as cash advances which means high cash advance fees and interest!
Buying American Express gift cards directly from the American Express website with a Citi card will also trigger the cash advance fees.
You can use gift cards to help you meet high minimum spending requirements on credit cards.
purchased from retail stores are coded as a retail purchase and you are NOT charged cash advance fees for these types of transactions.
do NOT use a Citi credit card to buy prepaid cards DIRECTLY from financial institutions. This is usually coded as a financial purchase and you could be charged cash advance fees.
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