Earning Miles & Points with American Express Bluebird

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I bought a Bluebird starter kit from Walmart with a mile earning debit card and have been playing with it while ignoring my wife.  Frequent Miler says that Bluebird “changes the game” and I agree with him that there is a lot of potential!  However, I just hope that we can use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird and are not forced to use Bluebird Feeder packs.

Bluebird is a new pre-paid debit card from American Express.

You can sign-up online for a Bluebird card, or visit a Wal-Mart and buy a starter kit and fund it up to $500 using cash or a debit card.

Bluebird Starter Kits at Walmart

There is a $5 fee if you buy the starter kit at Wal-Mart.  You register your starter kit online at Bluebird.com and will receive a permanent card within 10 business days.

Bluebird-miles-points 6
Inside the Bluebird Starter Kit

Bluebird has the potential (I’m still testing) to turbo charge the way we earn miles and points.  You can pay rent, utilities college tuition, mortgages, and even credit card bills and potentially earn lots of miles and points!

You can store up to $10,000 on your Bluebird card.

What Can Bluebird Do For You?

1.  Pay Rent, Mortgage, Credit Card Bills, Utilities, or College Tuition.   The best use of Bluebird to me is the ability to pay for transactions which can’t usually be made with a miles or points earning credit card.

Sure, you can pay a convenience fee of 3% or higher, or use a service such as William Paid for rent or ChargeSmart for mortgages, but it just isn’t worth it for the points, though it can be worth it to help meet the minimum spending requirement for a credit card sign-up bonus.

Bluebird has a Pay Bills option which includes most mortgage companies, utilities, and other payees.

You could even earn points and miles for paying your credit card account and no longer be jealous of the Brazilians!

Pay Your Chase Credit Card & Mortgage with Bluebird!

There is a limit of $10,000 in payments per month for payments to entities already listed in the Bluebird Pay Bills.

2.  Pay ANYONE.   This is actually part of #1 above, but I wanted to emphasize just how important this can be.

For example, let’s say that the person or business you want to pay, say, your apartment complex or your contractor or your college is NOT listed in the Bluebird Pay Bills option.


Pay Anyone With Bluebird Pay Bills

You can enter that person’s or business information manually and send up to $5,000 per month, per account, with Bluebird.  Bluebird will send a check to the person or business.

3.  ATM Withdrawals.  You can load your Bluebird card with a miles and points earning debit card (Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines) or with Vanilla reload packets and earn miles or points for the load.

You can then withdraw up to $500 per day (in up to 3 daily withdrawals) and up to $2,000 per month with your Bluebird card.  You can use this feature to help complete a minimum spending requirement on a card.

There is a $2 fee per ATM withdrawal (waived until November 4, 2012), unless you set up Direct Deposit to your Bluebird card and use a MoneyPass ATM. Many employers will let you split your paycheck to different bank accounts.

Note that you can’t direct deposit your US government salary including federal wages, salaries, social security, etc.

Other options to mimic direct deposit could potentially include:

  • Linking an account from PayPal or Amazon Payments
  • Transferring money from other bank accounts online

Please comment if you know of other ways to mimic a direct deposit.

I wouldn’t abuse this option because American Express likely has systems in place to detect potential abuse.

How it Works

Unfortunately, you can’t load Bluebird directly with a miles and points earning credit card.  You could try to find a Wal-Mart store which lets you purchase or reload Bluebird with a credit card, but I was unsuccessful.  I doubt this option will materialize.

However, you CAN directly load Bluebird with a miles or points earning debit card (Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines).  But this option is expensive.  It costs $2 per debit card load and you are limited to $100 per day and $1,000 per month.

bluebird-miles-points 3
Direct Debit Card Loading is Not Worth it

In other words, you will pay $20 per month ($2 per load X 10 debit card loads) for 1,000 Delta miles or 500 Alaska Air miles which is NOT worth it.

I’m still testing Bluebird, but here are the ways Bluebird could make it easier to earn miles and points.

1.   Fund Bluebird Indirectly With a Credit Card.   The most promising option to fund Bluebird is with a Vanilla reload.  You can buy Vanilla reloads with a credit card at Office Depot (many other shops require you to pay cash).  There is a fee of $3.95 per Vanilla reload card.
Bluebird miles points
Vanilla Reload Cards (Cards labelled “Prepaid Reload”)

You earn 1 point per $1 spent with a regular miles or points earning credit card at Office Depot or 5X points if you use a Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or other Chase Ink cards.

For example, let’s say you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred or your Chase Ink Plus to buy a $500 Vanilla reload card from Office depot.  You will earn 500 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Ink Bold and pay $3.95 for the Vanilla reload fee.

You then load your Bluebird card with the $500 Vanilla reload card and use it for transactions for which you don’t usually earn miles or points  – such as paying mortgages, withdrawing from ATMs, paying other persons, etc.

You come out slightly ahead when you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but the real payoff is when you use the Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold or other Chase Ink card.

You can load up to $1,000 per day and up to $5,000 per month using a Vanilla reload.

However, I won’t be surprised if we can’t use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird given how potentially lucrative Bluebird could be for folks using miles and points.

My gut tells me that we may not be able to use Vanilla reload cards with Bluebird, and we may have to use Bluebird feeder packs instead.  I hope I’m wrong about this!

2.   Fund Bluebird With a Debit Card Using Swipe Reloads. I was able to pay for my Bluebird starter pack using a debit card.  I tried to use a few different credit cards, but they were all rejected.

I’m going to see if I can reload my permanent Bluebird card using a debit card at Wal-Mart.  The terms for “Swipe Reloads” say:

“…by presenting his or her Card and cash or other acceptable tender at a participating retailer (a “Swipe Reload“)

I’m hoping that I will be able to reload my Bluebird card at Wal-Mart with a miles earning debit card since I was able to buy the starter Bluebird with a debit card.

If that works, I can earn Delta, Alaska Air, or American Airlines miles for routine transactions!

Bottom Line

I’m eager to see if I can earn miles and points by using BlueBird, and I’ll keep you folks posted.  If this works, I will be able to earn miles for paying student loans, rent, ATM withdrawals, and paying bills.

If you do use Bluebird, go easy with the ability to withdraw money via an ATM.

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